Getting Back at the Man

9 06 2009

So many funny and eventful things have happened that I haven’t blogged about. I know better than to make more promises about blog frequency, so instead I’m just writing one blog post with no promises attached. Here you go. Enjoy.

I had waited almost 15 minutes in an extremely long line at Albertson’s grocery store. A cashier came along and opened the lane right next to me, offering to help the next person in line.

When this happens, common courtesy dictates that if you hop in the new line, you stay in the same order in which you already were in the other lane. If you’re at the back of the line, it’s impolite to rush to be the first in the new line, cutting ahead of people who have been waiting longer than you have.

And that’s exactly what happened. I was the “next person in line” that the new cashier offered to help, but as I started moving toward her lane, a man from the back of the line literally pushed his way past me and plopped his groceries on the counter. It was so ridiculous that, unbelievable though it may sound, I was temporarily at a loss for words.

I found my tongue quickly enough, and my voice came out louder than I intended. I try to be gracious, but I also live in the real world, and in the real world I have a particularly low tolerance for rudeness. I can deal with ignorance, stupidity, or cluelessness all day long. But if you’re intentionally rude to me or someone else, you had better believe I will call you out on the carpet.

“Don’t you think you should let people who were here before you go first, buddy?” I said to the entire store.

It is at this point in the story that I must point out that this man was Navajo. I try not to make a big issue out of race, but his response to me can only make correct sense in that context. And what he said totally floored me.

He turned to me and declared to everyone within earshot, “My people don’t answer to you anymore.”

This time I didn’t find my tongue again. I pride myself on having a comeback for just about everything (in elementary school, I was the younger, picked-on kid which resulted in a sharp wit by the time I reached adulthood — a worthwhile tradeoff, I’ve decided) but I had nothing to say back to He Who Cuts In Line. There is nothing in my deck of responses that tops the Persecuted Indian trump card.

All I could do was laugh. And I wasn’t even laughing at him, I was laughing at the fact that I got beat by an Indian in a verbal conflict and I knew it.

What’s funny is that, with his response, the wave of irritation that had flared up so quickly inside of me dissipated just as fast. I have come to realize that I will let people get away with a lot of crap if they can make me laugh, and I mean really laugh, not a polite, “that-wasn’t-funny-but-I-don’t-want-to-hurt-your-feelings” laugh.

He Who Cuts In Line cracked me up with his audacious response, which in all fairness, I should point out is so horribly nontypical of my overall experience with Native Americans. Most are very polite, well-mannered people. But for this nontypical guy, I stepped aside and waited my turn to check out.

If getting to cut in line at the grocery store makes him feel like he’s able to get back at the man a little bit, more power to him. It’s a hell of a one-liner, you have to admit.

I wonder how many people he’s used it on.


Rob’s Super-Secret Chili Recipe

16 03 2009

Mine is not a cooking blog, but I’m deviating from the norm to bring you my personal recipe for chili with beans. I call it Rob’s Super-Secret Chili Recipe, though it’s obviously not so secret if I’m posting it on my blog. Still, I guarantee that when you take this to your next family gathering or work potluck, you won’t need to bring leftovers home.

It has taken a substantial amount of trial and error to get this right. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say, not so much “error” as it was thinking, “This could be better,” and then figuring out how to make it so. Each time, it has been better than the time before. I am finally ready to present it as a final version suitable for sharing.

A word of caution – this recipe has some ingredients not too often found in chili. You might be tempted to pass them over, but they really do work together quite harmoniously for a final product that is quite delicious. Resist the temptation to omit, or to substitute (unless a suitable substitution is indicated).

And finally, this chili will be good enough to eat just after it’s been prepared, but to truly reach its full potential, it needs to be prepared, refrigerated overnight, and then heated again (the best way is in a crockpot; a microwave is suitable; if you reheat it on the stove, don’t heat too quickly so as to prevent scorching to the bottom of the pot). The wonderfulness is dramatically increased when it’s eaten on the second day.

Rob’s Super-Secret Chili Recipe

1 lb beef chuck, sirloin or stew beef, cut into 1/2″ pieces (keep these bits small)
1 lb lean ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 leeks, thoroughly washed and chopped *
6 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 C water
1/4 C brown sugar, packed
1 bottle Guinness beer **
2 cans (6 oz each) tomato paste
1 can (14.5 oz) petite diced tomatoes (do not drain)
1 can (8 oz) diced green chiles
4 Tbsp chili powder
2 Tbsp Better-Than-Bouillon, beef flavor ***
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1 Tbsp ground cumin seed
2 tsp instant coffee ****
2 tsp monosodium glutamate *****
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp dry ground mustard
1 can each (about 15 oz each) dark red kidney, light red kidney, pinto, and black beans ******

1. In large frying pan, cook beef chunks, ground beef, onions, leeks and garlic in oil for about 12 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring often.

2. In large stock pot, combine all remaining ingredients except beans. Mix well. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low.

3. Add beef mixture to stock pot mixture. Cover. Adjust temperature to maintain a low simmer. Simmer 60 minutes.

4. Add beans. Cover and simmer 60 minutes.

5. Uncover and simmer about 15 minutes to thicken.

Tips for serving: Refrigerate overnight, then reheat prior to serving. Serve with grated cheddar and a small dollop of sour cream on each bowl. Excellent stir-ins are torn flour tortilla or Fritos.

* If you’re unfamiliar with leeks, here are some tips: Take apart each layer and rinse away any dirt or debris. It’s like celery; it accumulates near the base between layers. Use the bottom, white half of the leek and discard the green top half. If leeks prove too daunting for you, substitute another onion. Green onion is okay, too.

** Guinness works best. Acceptable substitutions are other dark, stout beers, or a red beer (such as Killian’s). Don’t use a light beer unless it’s the only alternative to no beer. Using bottled instead of canned beer will prevent a metallic taste in the chili. Canned beer is an abomination unto the Lord. And don’t skip the beer. Relax; the alcohol evaporates while cooking. The flavor it imparts is essential.

*** Better Than Bouillon is usually available alongside powdered stock in the grocery store, and it makes a notable difference over the powdered. If you use powdered stock, use the amount that would make six cups. Don’t add extra water. If your only option is liquid beef stock, eliminate the 2 C of water from the recipe and remove the cover for a longer portion of the simmering to allow some evaporation. The chili shouldn’t be watery.

**** Yes, coffee. I promise, it tastes delicious in the chili whether you like coffee or not. I recommend instant coffee because it keeps the chili from becoming too watery, but you can use brewed coffee instead. If you do this, eliminate the 2 C of water from the recipe. Feel free to use decaffeinated if you prefer, as caffeine (unlike the alcohol in the beer) does NOT cook its way out of the chili. It’s a small enough quantity that I haven’t noticed caffeine reactions when serving this, but use your best judgment.

***** I realize that the old stigma about MSG still persists. I have never seen a reaction to MSG unless the person knew they were eating it and consequently got mentally worked up over it because they believe they had a sensitivity. Magically, when I “forget” to mention the MSG, everyone goes about their business eating happily and feeling wonderfully. I recommend that you don’t omit this step because it dramatically enhances the flavor. If you can’t bring yourself to use it, though, substitute an additional teaspoon of kosher salt instead. Having trouble finding MSG? Look in the spice aisle for a product called “Accent” Flavor Enhancer. The only ingredient is MSG. Still can’t find it? Ask at an Asian grocery.

****** I find myself in a perpetual dilemma over whether or not to drain the beans, which are usually canned in corn syrup. Adding the entire contents of the can makes for a sweeter chili, which is not necessarily bad, but sometimes it becomes TOO sweet and that’s hard to reverse. I usually find myself draining the beans and then adding a little more brown sugar to the chili until it’s just the right sweetness.

A Dollar

8 03 2009

Let me tell you one of the reasons I love my wife: she can, without fail, come up with the one line in any situation that will make me laugh the hardest. I think she knows me and my sense of humor so well that she can consistently come up with the completely unexpected remark that makes me say, “That was the funniest thing you could have possibly said right that second.”

Breakfast this morning came from the grocery store bakery. The kids and I had donuts, but Liesl opted for cheese danish. This would only happen on a Sunday, because my wife the superwoman has been doing an amazing job taking control of her diet. Sundays are the day she allows herself a little flexibility. It was a large danish, the kind you set out for everyone  at the breakfast table. Knowing that she probably wouldn’t eat any more of the danish after today, and that there would probably be quite a bit left over, I joked that she had better finish off the whole danish while it was still Sunday.

“I’ll give you a dollar if you eat that whole thing in one sitting,” I teased. Without missing a beat, she looked at me and said with absolute confidence, “You’ll give me a dollar if I tell you to give me a dollar.”

I laughed hard. She’s totally right.

Wind, Sand and Burgers

28 02 2009

Apparently windy season has arrived here. It gusts all the time. This is good in its own way because it dries out the mud as the last of the snow continues to melt (and I sincerely hope we’re past the big snowstorms). But the wind here really blows.

It’s funny, it seems that there is at least one thing for each season that makes it not-quite-enjoyable to be outside here. If it’s spring, it would be gorgeous out, except that it’s raining, so you’ll get soaked and muddy. If it’s summer, it would be gorgeous out, except there are so many buffalo gnats you’ll get eaten alive. If it’s autumn, there are still buffalo gnats and now it’s also raining again. If it’s winter, you’re getting snowed on and you’re freezing. And for that magical couple of weeks in February and March when the snow seems to have stopped, it’s not raining yet, and the buffalo gnats are not yet in proliferation — the wind is blowing incessantly.

We have, for the most part, made quite an effort to enjoy the outdoors here in spite of the minor inconveniences that each season brings. It really is beautiful here — albeit, always with an “except for.” I’m looking forward to the temperature going up a bit so we can go exploring again in Cibola National Forest, which is literally right next door. And even though the rain does cause some inconveniences, it really is quite a thrill when it rains here.

This past Thursday, we went with Gabe and Beka Anast’s family to Red Rock State Park (just barely outside of town) where there is a large sand dune. The wind died down enough for us to enjoy ourselves for about an hour. I climbed all the way to the top, which was no small feat as it’s a very tall and extremely steep incline with no solid foothold. You stop climbing, you start sliding down, so you have to stay in constant climbing motion, kind of like a stair-climbing exercise machine. The kids managed this much easier, but then again, they don’t weigh 190 pounds. We got a little sandblasted on the way back out, but it’s definitely a place we’ll go back to visit again soon, perhaps when the wind has lessened.

Any physical exercise from which I might have benefitted at the sand dune was promptly cancelled out afterward. Gabe, Beka, Liesl and I then took the kids (that’s nine children between our two families) to Blake’s Lotaburger, a diner chain that’s fairly prolific across New Mexico. Their food is delicious. Think “burger-the-way-burger-should-taste.” Not quite as good as, say, In-N-Out, but reasonably close to it, and a major step up from the usual fast food joints. For a Colorado comparison, I would put Blake’s in the same category as maybe a Griff’s, or Jim’s Burger Haven. Anyway, my Lotaburger with Cheese and Bacon would probably take more than a trek up the dune to work off. But hey, it’s become quite rare for us to eat food like that these days. We had a great time.

So there’s our week. Wind, sand and burgers. I think that just about sums it up.


22 02 2009

Now that my Oscars contest has closed, I’m posting my own predictions, as well as the consensus of my readers. We’re actually in agreement on everything except the first one.

Best Actor
Rob says: Sean Penn
Rob’s readers say: Mickey Rourke
This one’s tough. I know Mickey Rourke is the favorite to win, and I would like to think he’ll pull it off, but I have a feeling this one might go to Sean Penn. I think it might be, in part, Hollywood’s response to California’s passing of Proposition 8.

Best Supporting Actor
Rob says: Heath Ledger
Rob’s readers say: Heath Ledger
It would be so unbelievably unthinkable for Heath Ledger NOT to win. Only one of my readers dared to break from the pack and pick Philip Seymour Hoffman. While I think the performances of the other nominees in this category are win-worthy, Hollywood will give this to Ledger as its way of saying goodbye, celebrating his life, and mourning all that could have been.

Best Actress
Rob says: Kate Winslet
Rob’s readers say: Kate Winslet
I am really tempted to go with Meryl Streep in this category. If Winslet weren’t nominated, Streep would win for sure. Honestly, Winslet is nominated for the wrong movie, but I think Hollywood is so intent on seeing her finally win that this will be the time. Meryl’s kind of done herself in by acknowledging too often that she gets nominated but never wins, and I don’t think a majority will break from the pack.

Best Supporting Actress
Rob says: Penelope Cruz
Rob’s readers say: Penelope Cruz
I’d like to see Viola Davis take this, but I think Hollywood is betting that her best performances are yet to come. Penelope Cruz is a pretty solid bet.

Best Animated Feature
Rob says: WALL-E
Rob’s readers say: WALL-E
I thought this was going to be unanimous, but one last-minute entry chose Kung Fu Panda. I don’t think there’s a chance in the world that WALL-E would NOT win this category. Critics agreed that, animated or not, this was simply a great movie. This might be the only category it wins, but it will definitely win this one.

Best Art Direction
Rob says: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Rob’s readers say: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
I’m tempted to go with Revolutionary Road. Enough people feel like it should have been nominated in different categories, which could potentially net it a win here, but Benjamin Button has a large following. People know it will lose out to Slumdog Millionaire in the big categories, so I think they’ll want to make sure it takes this category.

Best Cinematography
Rob says: Slumdog Millionaire
Rob’s readers say: Slumdog Millionaire
I find it very unlikely that any of the other contenders can beat out Slumdog here. If anyone does, it will be Benjamin Button.

Best Costume Design
Rob says: The Duchess
Rob’s readers say: The Duchess
It’s the only nominee with costumes that are jaw-droppingly good. Benjamin Button will win Makeup and Visual Effects, so it doesn’t need to win here. This one goes to The Duchess.

Best Directing
Rob says: Slumdog Millionaire
Rob’s readers say: Slumdog Millionaire
Director and picture usually go hand-in-hand. Slumdog will take Best Picture, and I find it extremely likely that Danny Boyle will win this as well. There’s a slim chance the category could go to Milk, but I think that the wins Milk will net in Screenplay (and potentially Actor) will be the extent of its success.

Best Documentary, Feature
Rob says: Man on Wire
Rob’s readers say: Man on Wire
It’s had the biggest Oscar campaign and the most pre-Oscars discussion. I think much of the Academy votes along with what they think the rest of the Academy will vote in this category. Consequently, Man on Wire will likely win.

Best Documentary, Short
Rob says:
The Witness – From the Balcony of Room 306
Rob’s readers say: The Witness – From the Balcony of Room 306
I haven’t seen any of the films in this category, so I’m taking the easy road here and going with my readers on this one.

Best Film Editing
Rob says:
Slumdog Millionaire
Rob’s readers say: Slumdog Millionaire
I think this one will be part of Slumdog’s big sweep. If it doesn’t, it will go to The Dark Knight.

Best Foreign Language Film
Rob says:
Waltz with Bashir
Rob’s readers say: Waltz with Bashir
Without knowing much about the films in this category, either, I’d say this is a pretty safe bet as well.

Best Makeup
Rob says:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Rob’s readers say: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Academy wants to do something with Benjamin Button, as evidenced by its large number of nominations, but since it’s not going to win the biggest categories, it has to win the ones most relevant to the film itself. I think that giving this movie the award for Best Makeup is somewhat misguided, as I think Benjamin Button is more of an accomplishment in Visual Effects, but I don’t think many of the voters quite know whether it’s more a makeup thing or a CGI thing, so they’ll give it both.

Best Original Score
Rob says:
Slumdog Millionaire
Rob’s readers say: Slumdog Millionaire
So many of the rave reviews about this movie center around its music, both the songs and the score. I think it will take this category fairly easily.

Best Original Song
Rob says:
“Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire
Rob’s readers say: “Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire
Not only do I think this song will win, I’m kind of excited for it to win. It’s a different song than any other that’s been nominated in this category before. Every so often, something comes along to change the perception of what an Oscar-worthy song will be. The only way it might not win is if its votes get canceled out by the votes for O Saya, also from Slumdog Millionaire, in which case Down to Earth from WALL-E would win by default. But I think the Academy wants Slumdog to win this category, and there’s enough of a consensus that Jai Ho is the song to take it.

Best Picture
Rob says:
Slumdog Millionaire
Rob’s readers say: Slumdog Millionaire
If you’d have asked me when the nominations were first announced, I’d have gone with Milk. But there has been so much buzz about Slumdog, and everyone loves an underdog. Everyone’s pulling for Slumdog to take Best Picture, and I think it will happen.

Best Short Film, Animated
Rob says:
Rob’s readers say: Presto

Embarrassingly, I’ve seen none of the films in either of the Short Film categories. I’ll go with my readers on these.

Best Short Film, Live Action
Rob says:
Spielzeugland (Toyland)
Rob’s readers say: Spielzeugland (Toyland)
See comments in previous category.

Best Sound Editing
Rob says:
The Dark Knight
Rob’s readers say: The Dark Knight
There’s a chance this could go to WALL-E, but I think Hollywood feels like it needs to acknowledge The Dark Knight as a movie apart from just Heath Ledger’s performance. I think it will take both this and the Sound Mixing categories.

Best Sound Mixing
Rob says:
The Dark Knight
Rob’s readers say: The Dark Knight
See comments on the previous category.

Best Visual Effects
Rob says:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Rob’s readers say: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
This is the category where Benjamin Button most deserves a win. It really represents a significant accomplishments in the visual effects field and will win the Oscar accordingly.

Best Screenplay, Adapted
Rob says:
Slumdog Millionaire
Rob’s readers say: Slumdog Millionaire
There are some excellent nominees in this category, and I think the Oscar could very deservedly go to The Reader or Doubt. But I think that, despite Slumdog’s likelihood to win big, there are more than a few people afraid that it could lose to Milk for Best Picture, so they want to make sure that Slumdog wins this category.

Best Screenplay, Original
Rob says:
Rob’s readers say: Milk
If I could give this award personally, it would go to the witty and brilliant In Bruges. But since Slumdog Millionaire can’t be nominated in this category, it will undoubtedly go to Milk.

Rob’s Oscar Winner Prediction Contest

19 02 2009

One of my favorite television events of the year is the Academy Awards, informally known as The Oscars. I love the whole event — the red carpet arrivals, the presenters, the acceptance speeches, and the musical performances.

When I lived in Colorado, I used to host some sort of annual Oscars party.  None of my friends ever get into it quite like I do, but they love just about any excuse for a party. This year, however, now living in the remote forest outside of Gallup, New Mexico, I have neither the venue to host nor the guest list to invite.

My favorite part of the party is having a “Predict the Winners” contest. This year, in lieu of an actual party, I’ve decided to hold the contest on my blog. The winner receives two AMC movie gift certificates. These are each good for one admission at any AMC theater in the United States for any film showing, including special engagements, with no date or time restrictions and no expiration date.

Here’s how to play, and the rules of my contest:

  1. Copy the nominee list below and paste it as a comment on this blog entry. Erase all but one nominee in each category, leaving the nominee you think will win in each category. (Remember, this is “pick who you THINK will win,” not “pick who you WANT to win.)
  2. Entries must be received by 12:00pm (noon) MST on Sunday, February 22, 2009. Late entries don’t count.
  3. The person who correctly predicts the most Oscar winners correctly will win the prize.
  4. In the event of a tie, the winner will be the person who submitted their entry the earliest.
  5. If you leave more than one nominee in a category, your guess for that category doesn’t count.
  6. Anybody can play. You don’t have to know me to participate. Tell your friends.
  7. Only one entry per person, and no changing your entry after it’s submitted.
  8. Make sure you put a valid email address in the appropriate field so I have a way to contact you to get your address in case you win.
  9. I reserve the right to add or modify the rules, and I am the sole judge in determining the winner.
  10. I also reserve the right to substitute prizes if necessary. Prize will be sent via USPS first-class mail.

Ready to play? Here’s the list of nominees, as obtained from

Best Leading Actor: 1) Richard Jenkins in The Visitor, 2) Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon, 3) Sean Penn in Milk, 4) Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button 5) Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler

Best Supporting Actor: 1) Josh Brolin in Milk, 2) Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder, 3) Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt, 4) Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, 5) Michael Shannon in Revolutionary Road

Best Leading Actress: 1) Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married, 2) Angelina Jolie in Changeling, 3) Melissa Leo in Frozen River, 4) Meryl Streep in Doubt, 5) Kate Winslet in The Reader

Best Supporting Actress: 1) Amy Adams in Doubt, 2) Penelope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, 3) Viola Davis in Doubt, 4) Taraji P. Henson in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 5) Marisa Tomei in The Wrestler

Best Animated Feature: 1) Bolt, 2) Kung-Fu Panda, 3) WALL-E

Best Art Direction: 1) Changeling, 2) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 3) The Dark Knight, 4) The Duchess, 5) Revolutionary Road

Best Cinematography: 1) Changeling, 2) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 3) The Dark Knight, 4) The Reader, 5) Slumdog Millionaire

Best Costume Design: 1) Australia, 2) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 3) The Duchess, 4) Milk, 5) Revolutionary Road

Best Directing: 1) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 2) Frost/Nixon, 3) Milk, 4) The Reader, 5) Slumdog Millionaire

Best Documentary Feature: 1) The Betrayal (Nerakhoon), 2) Encounters at the End of the World, 3) The Garden, 4) Man on Wire, 5) Trouble the Water

Best Documentary Short: 1) The Conscience of Nhem En, 2) The Final Inch, 3) Smile Pinki, 4) The Witness – From the Balcony of Room 306

Best Film Editing: 1) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 2) The Dark Knight, 3) Frost/Nixon, 4) Milk, 5) Slumdog Millionaire

Best Foreign Language Film: 1) The Baader Meinhof Complex, 2) The Class, 3) Departures, 4) Revanche, 5) Waltz with Bashir

Best Makeup: 1) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 2) The Dark Knight, 3) Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Best Original Score: 1) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 2) Defiance, 3) Milk, 4) Slumdog Millionaire, 5) WALL-E

Best Original Song: 1) “Down to Earth” from WALL-E, 2) “Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire, 3) “O Saya” from Slumdog Millionaire

Best Picture: 1) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 2) Frost/Nixon, 3) Milk, 4) The Reader, 5) Slumdog Millionaire

Best Short Film, Animated: 1) La Maison en Petits Cubes, 2) Lavatory – Lovestory, 3) Oktapodi, 4) Presto, 5) This Way Up

Best Short Film, Live Action: 1) Auf der Strecke (On the Line), 2) Manon on the Asphalt, 3) New Boy, 4) The Pig, 5) Spielzeugland (Toyland)

Best Sound Editing: 1) The Dark Knight, 2) Iron Man, 3) Slumdog Millionaire, 4) WALL-E, 5) Wanted

Best Sound Mixing: 1) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 2) The Dark Knight, 3) Slumdog Millionaire, 4) WALL-E, 5) Wanted

Best Visual Effects: 1) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 2) The Dark Knight, 3) Iron Man

Best Screenplay, Adapted: 1) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 2) Doubt, 3) Frost/Nixon, 4) The Reader, 5) Slumdog Millionaire

Best Screenplay, Original: 1) Frozen River, 2) Happy-Go-Lucky, 3) In Bruges, 4) Milk, 5) WALL-E

Two Discoveries

19 02 2009

I made two incredible discoveries this week, both of which involve the grocery store Safeway.

The first discovery was that there is, in fact, a place to get sushi in Gallup. This is a huge deal. Up to this point, I have been thinking the absence of sushi is one of the reasons I could never stay in Gallup forever. This week, I found it at Safeway. Now, do keep in mind that grocery store sushi is kind of like the equivalent of getting a steak at the Golden Corral versus a steak at a real steakhouse. But the point is that when you’ve lived for nine months in a town completely devoid of one of your favorite foods, even a cheap imitation is extremely exciting. The grocery store sushi is strictly limited to California Rolls, which contain no raw fish but rather fully-cooked imitation crab, so there’s not really a freshness issue. But just having access to the magical combination of seafood, sushi rice and seaweed is beyond exciting to me.

The second discovery came on the same trip to Safeway. They’re in the middle of remodeling the store. They had cleared out a large space along the front wall of the store. I assumed they were putting in a supermarket branch for a bank, but it’s so much better than that. This week, they put up the sign, and immediately I could taste the Caramel Frappuccinos and Toffee Nut Lattes.

That’s right, folks. On March 23, 2009, inside the Safeway on Highway 602, Gallup will celebrate the opening of its very first… Starbucks.