Hmm Weekly for June 30, 2020
Do You Want It Tuesday or Do You Want It “Tuesday?”
HERE IN BALTIMORE, Maryland, USA, we enjoy a pretty good municipal recycling pickup service, weekly, and it’s “Single Stream” so you don’t even have to sort the paper from the plastic from the cans from the bottles. Due to the Recent Public Health Unpleasantness, the service was suspended for over three weeks, which was going to prove to be a challenge for storing my household’s recycling output, on account of we’ve been drinking about three times the normal amount of beer, which I will also lay at the feet of the Recent Public Health Unpleasantness.
Lucky for us we installed a can crusher! Tomorrow the service is starting up again and we still have some room in the bin after three weeks! I’m no Math Major, but these cans are taking up about 20 percent of the space they’d need un-crushed!
Plus, it’s fun, almost exercise, to crush the cans! You can buy these things on the Internet, of course, and spend as much as you want, but I’d keep it simple. Just make sure you get one that accommodates cans larger than the height of typical 12-ouncers. We’ve been buying all sorts of different beer to keep ourselves amused and sometimes with the lo-calorie options you get stuff in a gimmicky tall, skinny can to make you think you’re dieting. It’s the same amount of beer, I keep checking.
Ask The Sophist
Dear The Sophist:
Is there a single thing wrong with asking roommates who aren’t in the house to split utilities bills?
I live in NYC and signed a lease with two roommates I found online, back in December. We are all in our late 20s. They are decent and friendly people, just for some background here. One has been living at their parents since March because of the pandemic (they are asthmatic), and the other just traveled back home to their parents’ for the last month (not sure when they’ll be back exactly).
They also both have decent jobs and I am unemployed. But part of me feels weird for charging them for utilities they don’t use. I’ve been doing so with the one roommate who left in March, who has been paying. Things will jump a little now that AC season is here though, and these June bills are the first bills without either of them in the apartment. I plan to charge them and make them speak up if they have any issues with it, but what do you think?
Let's Go Thirdsies
What you propose is entirely reasonable and harmless. The key is to recognize what it is that you are proposing: it is a negotiation. You are asking your roommates to pay for your air conditioning. Before you do, make sure you are ready to field their counteroffers, should any arise.
Your plan is, as you admit, a little bit of a stretch. The baseline springtime power bills are fine—you are keeping the fridge and freezer running for them, so that their limoncello stays nice and cold and their Eggos don’t spoil, against the day they need them again. But now you are asking them to cover the cost of cold air that they are not personally benefiting from, and at Con Edison rates.
Nevertheless, you might as well ask. Your position is not as weak as it might seem; their names are on a lease that's still in effect for five more months. If they disrupt the existing harmony of your arrangement, they could get stuck breaking the lease. And who wants to deal with that, let alone the hassle of moving, especially in what remains of lockdown?
It's true, you don’t want the hassle of moving either. So if they question it, and you're not in desperate financial straits, then knock the difference between May and June off their bill without complaint, and tell them you're covering the AC yourself, after all. Don't encourage them to dwell on what else you're getting at their expense: a whole three-person apartment in New York City, for instance.
Either way, this billing arrangement probably won't last much longer. New York is now the safer place to be, if it’s a matter of managing respiratory trouble during the pandemic, and your roommates are probably getting tired of doing Zoom meetings from their childhood bedrooms. The apartment building across the avenue from me is filling back up with people who’d fled, and the ones who stayed are having company over again. By billing your roommates in full, as the de facto caretaker of their toehold in the city, you are telling them they're welcome back anytime. Your cool air is their cool air.
Enjoy the silence while you can,
Got something you need to justify to yourself, or to the world at large? Other columnists are here to judge you, but The Sophist is here to tell you why you're right. Send your questions to AskTheSophist@hmmweekly.com, and get the answers you want.
Another Week, Another Hmm Weekly
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Fast Casual Dining
WE’D GONE OUT chasing rainbows. A thunderstorm had blown through after dinner with the late light sweeping in behind and beneath it, so that a sparkling downpour fell in full sunlight out the windows while the children were taking forever to put their shoes on. But the rain was still falling some when we made it out the door, and right away the rainbow was there, framed in the street to the east and reflecting off the mirrored building to the west. Two rainbows, even, the upper one faint but certain. We headed for the Park through the last rain and the drips, with the sun behind us.
The rain had cleared out most of the riffraff, though not everyone. A few Pride picnickers seemed to have ignored the downpour, but speed-demon cyclists were mostly absent, and the whole usual frantic edge of evening exercise was replaced by something more easy and ambling. We headed uptown, toward the Duck Spot.
Every little feature we've come to know while roaming the Park during lockdown has its own name—mostly unofficial, based on whatever it was like when we first found ourselves there. The Duck Spot is a point where a hefty outcropping of rock sticks out into the Lake, creating a little cove on its sheltered back side where the rock drops away. The cove was full of ducks when we found it back in early springtime, and even though it's been short on them lately, it remains the Duck Spot.
More reliable than the ducks are the turtles. Usually they're basking on the little rocks just offshore from the big rock, or swimming around the edges. All or nearly all of them are red-eared sliders, pet-store turtles dumped in the Park and prospering at the expense of the Eastern painted turtles and other native stock. The day was too late for basking, and at first we didn't see any turtles around. A few trips ago, we'd seen a little boy with a net plucking turtles out of the water for fun, with his father coaching him. This time, the eight-year-old wondered if the turtles would have learned to be shy because of that.
The turtles were not being shy at all. They were clustered in the shallows, in the curve where the point met the shore, and there were a lot of them in there. Another evening, below the Bethesda Fountain, we'd seen a woman and child feeding hot dogs to the turtles, and it was horrible. I'm fond of turtles but there they were an encrustation at the water's edge, trampling over each other and crawling ashore with their beaks gaping, to gobble off bites of nitrate-reddened meat.
This abundance was not like that, but still, something was drawing the turtles together, somehow. We stared into the shady water, trying to figure it out. Leftover raindrops plopped down from the leaves—and with them, something else. Something bigger than rain was hitting the water. I looked up at the low branches. They were full of fruit, little pale lumpy berries, like raspberries drained of color. Mulberries? I looked them up on my phone. White mulberries.
The ripest berries were the color of bug flesh, like newly emerged cicadas, with little darker flecks on them. They were so ripe they were just letting go, dropping through the evening air, to land in the dirt on the shore or fall in the shallows, where each one glimmered until a turtle spotted it and snapped it up.
Earlier in this month on this cove we'd plucked some serviceberries from a tree and eaten those, lifting up our germ masks to pop them in our mouths, unwashed. I felt for some mulberries. The ripe ones came away at the slightest touch; I had to pinch them and roll them from finger to finger to get my hand untangled from the leaves without dropping the fruit. The children ate a few, and so did I. They were richly, smoothly sweet, without a trace of astringency. We tossed a few to the turtles. Some of them got noticed right away, and others sank to the bottom. We assumed the turtles would figure it out, sooner or later.
RANKED LISTS DEP’T.:
Limited-Time Summer Savings Pairings Announced by Fairway Market via Text Message, From Most to Least Appetizing
“Enjoy this summer deal on La Croix & Salmon!”
“Enjoy this deal on live lobster and pasta sauce”
“Fresh deal on blueberries and olives”
“Save BIG on olive oil and oat milk.”
“Start the week fresh with Tide and Strawberries!”
“Enjoy this HOT summer deal on ground chuck and grapes”
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VISUAL CONSCIOUSNESS DEP’T.
A recent visit to Sky King Fireworks, Shrewsbury, PA
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WE TOLD you this moment would come. We have exhausted our selection of recipes for eldritch and esoteric sandwiches, taken from The Up-To-Date Sandwich Book: 400 Ways to Make a Sandwich, by Eva Greene Fuller; 1909; McClurg and Co., Chicago, found in the public domain for the delectation of all. We’re searching for another, equally encyclopedic public domain source, but until then, we will present select recipes as we skip around in search of another collection as compelling as the one compiled by Eva Greene Fuller.
Our first selection (mostly about bread, but it builds, like a school lesson) is from The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, by Fannie Merritt Farmer, Principal of the Boston Cooking-School, available on Google Books.
SANDWICHES AND CANAPÉS.
IN preparing bread for sandwiches, cut slices as thinly as possible, and remove crusts. If butter is used, cream the butter, and spread bread before cutting from loaf. Spread half the slices with mixture to be used for filling, cover with remaining pieces, and cut in squares, oblongs, or triangles. If sandwiches are shaped with round or fancy cutters, bread should be shaped before spreading, that there be no waste of butter. Sandwiches which are prepared several hours before serving-time may be kept fresh and moist by wrapping in a napkin wrung as dry as possible out of hot water, and keeping in a cool place. Paratline paper is often used for the same purpose. Bread for sandwiches cuts better when a day old. Serve sandwiches piled on a plate covered with a doily.
Cut fresh bread, while still warm, in as thin slices as possible, using a very sharp knife. Spread evenly with butter which has been creamed. Roll slices separately, and tie each with a baby ribbon.
Bread and butter folds.
Remove end slice from bread. Spread end of loaf sparingly and evenly with butter which has been creamed. Cut off as thin a slice as possible. Repeat until the number of slices required are prepared. Remove crusts, put together in pairs, and cut in squares, oblongs, or triangles. Use white, entire wheat, Graham, or brown bread.
Put fresh, crisp lettuce leaves, washed and thoroughly dried, between thin slices of buttered bread prepared as for Bread and Butter Folds, having a teaspoon of Mayonnaise on each leaf.
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