Friday, February 14, 2014

Pennsylvania Country Departure and Margaritas and Dinner c/o El Puerto in Virginia

As has probably become rather apparent over the last few weeks, I've been in the process of making some big life changes. The primary life change is a two parter, as it involves both a change in professional activity and geographical location. The long and short of it is that I stopped working at the company that first brought me to Philly in 2008, and in the next few days I'll begin working on a sheep/dairy farm in Washington State. Many logistical things had to be figured out in advance, and one of the most troubling was certainly what to do with my cat, Zul. The farm has a no-cats policy, and so taking Zul with me across the country wasn't an option. And, honestly, driving in a car with a very unhappy cat for a week to ten days didn't strike me as overly appealing. Obviously I couldn't just leave the cat on the street, nor was I willing to truly 'give him up.' No, what I hoped to find was someone willing to take on the guardianship and companionship of Zul for the duration of this farm apprenticeship. This was slightly trickier than you might think. Folks aren't all that interested in temporary but rather long-term temporary cat care, or they don't like cats, or they have three dogs, or they won't guarantee that the cat will stay alive under their roof. CRS and I had been emailing in the early days of my figuring this all out, when I was still not entirely sure I was going to make this dramatic decision. And at one point she mentioned a willingness to watch Zul, but she lives in North Carolina and I kind of assumed she wasn't serious/thought it was somehow too much to ask of her, given her own professional transitions and life events. But after a month of frequent Facebook pleas, and a few at-first-promising-but-ultimately-not-quite-right offers, CRS and I got down to the business of talking about her and J.'s taking the cat reins. The main thing was scheduling. I wanted to start heading west in earnest around the 1st and was slightly hesitant to drive all the way to NC when I knew the next destination was basically all the way back north and then over a bit (Ohio). CRS was incredibly patient with me and my nonsense, and we ultimately decided to meet up in Wytheville, Virginia for a cat hand-off.

My last days in Pennsylvania were not actually in Philly. Perhaps not terribly surprising, but I went up and out to the country for a few days of fire building and additional organization instead. It was much as it always is: quiet, peaceful, lovely. And also very cold. When I was packing up L. suggested that instead of putting Meow Cat's ashes into storage, I take her along with me, scattering some of her ashes in a variety of locations. I did think that was a nice idea. And so a few hours before my departure I walked down to the creek and said a few words before sprinkling some of the cat's "cremins" into the still trickling water.
 My drive from Philly to the country was marred by a rather slapdash end car packing. LW was kind enough to help, but I went from feeling like I had all the time in the world to scrambling a bit...suddenly I had all these random things that I wanted to bring, but no rhyme or reason to where I placed them. So once in the country there was quite  a bit of reconstituting, as the first drive included a complete inability to see out the back of my car. With a bit more consideration, and reconfiguring of my car's seats (Honda Fits are definitely quite useful in the different ways you can fold seats to create more vertical or horizontal space), I was able to get everything packed in a far more sensible manner and actually see out my back window while driving.
And so once the ashes were scattered and the car was packed, and I waited the requisite amount of time for Zul to be properly tranquilized, I got on the road. The drive to Virginia was generally uneventful. For the majority of it, I listened to Armistead Maupin's second to last Tales of the City book, which was absolutely perfect. All the characters were familiar to me from the previous installments, most of which I read between the ages of 12 and 15, and then revisited in my late 20s. I arrived a bit before CRS and J, which gave Zul time to hide in the hotel room and me time to...maybe I took a shower? I kind of forget what I did. Once they arrived we went to dinner at El Puerto. CRS and I both ordered margaritas, on ice, with salt. They were certainly large in size, but very much 'meh' in terms of actual goodness. Standard sour mix, lots of it, with tequila somewhere in there. We both finished them, but I wouldn't rave about them in any context really. 
I ordered their mushroom and cheese quesadilla with tomatillo salsa and a funny 'guacamole salad.' On the whole you really can't go wrong with melted cheese, but this was not all that great either. The guac was a little suspect in its absolute smoothness - I guess they could have used a food processor...but it just made me suspect that it was most certainly not being made from scratch. The tomatillo sauce actually had a nice little kick to it. The mushrooms were your standard button variety, and I probably would have suggested sauteeing them with some other herb or onion to increase their flavor. Not bad, but not really memorable. Very much Mexican for white people in the south.
I also ordered a chicken enchilada, which was everything you'd want from this kind of place. Good, but just not all that special. I think CRS and J. would describe their meals as entirely acceptable fare, but not particularly authentic. Nothing to grab the table and exclaim over really. We would probably have ordered a second round of drinks if our server hadn't gone off duty, and the guy who was supposed to take over our table hadn't totally forgotten we were still sitting there. After I'd say about 15 to 20 minutes of cleared plates but no check or follow up, we went up to the register, paid, and then went to Applebee's for a round of giant beers. It had been a while since I had seen either CRS or J. and so it was simply nice to spend a bit of time with them, and the fact that they were willing to take on Zul - who really is quite a wonderful cat in most ways, but is still not without his quirks - continues to be something for which I am incredibly grateful.

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