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So it happened again. And again. In fact, it has happened about once a week since Sandy Hook.

Huffingtonpost.com lays out the stats. They report that, “including Tuesday’s incident at a high school in Troutdale, Oregon, 74 school shootings have taken place in the approximately 18 months since the Dec. 14, 2012, Newtown shooting. The average school year typically lasts about 180 days, which means there have been roughly 270 school days, or 54 weeks, of class since the shooting at Newtown. With 74 total incidents over that period, the nation is averaging well over a shooting per school week.”

The data indicates that school shootings drop in the summer when regular classes let out so maybe we won’t have desperate, tragic headlines about school shootings in the coming weeks. But any reduction in violence won’t be the result of political action or a cultural shift, it will be because there are fewer kids and teachers in schools and therefore fewer targets.

Shall we declare the opening of each school year the official opening of Hunting Season on our children and educators?

Anyone offended?

More than a year ago, after Boston and after relatively flimsy gun legislation was defeated, I used my little blog as a soap box and pointed out that the people who show the most grace in the face of violence are the victims and not our elected leaders. (Post here.)

Mr. Richard Martinez, after his son was killed in a mass shooting in Santa Barbara a few weeks ago, bared his raw anguish to the world and said, “Not One More.” He didn’t ask for the spotlight. He didn’t want that moment but when it came upon him, he faced it. His talk is plain and his point is clear. He’s a hero though this accolade is surely meaningless and infuriating to him as he mourns and lives devastated in the aftermath of his son’s murder.

I live in New York so I turned to Senator Chuck Schumer, a democrat from New York and funneled a bit of Mr. Martinez’s outrage. I asked Mr. Schumer to “do something.” And I received a response! Chuck Schumer tells me that he shares my anger and has in fact acted! But thinking yourself an agent for change because you introduced a bill that went nowhere is as effective as any of us sharing Mr. Martinez’s grief with a hashtag on social media. The difference, and what makes Mr. Schumer’s self-promotion intolerable, is that Chuck Schumer and all of our elected officials have The Standing and The Office and The Access to do something now.

In his remarks yesterday on gun violence, our “Yes We Can” President sounded more like a “I Can’t Do This” President. Is there no one who can lead our country to a future where it’s safe for our children to go to school?

Maybe the next Rose Garden press conference should be on the issue of gun violence. All of our elected officials who want to be part of the solution can stand behind President Obama, chins up, faces in the sun and on camera. Maybe everyone with a seat at the table can put their Big Boy/Big Girl Pants on, calibrate their moral compass and do something.

So here we are, many months and 74 school shootings later and we are asking the same questions and engulfed in the same outrage.  All those months ago I wrote:

“I think mass killings are acts of terror and the person who carries out the carnage is a terrorist.  And you, our elected helpers, must act with the same urgency and solution based thought to prevent the next school shooting as you do to prevent other acts of terror.  You asked us to make you leaders.  You can’t be less heroic than innocent bystanders who never asked for the role.  It can’t be too much to ask for you to be honest, to engage in fair dialog and to put your personal interest after the interest of the country.”

And I’m back at it. I will hashtag and share and blog till my fingers are blue. I don’t profess to have the answers. But I believe without a doubt there’s a solution if our leaders follow the example of the victims and are brave enough to face the moment.

Will what I wrote here make any difference? Maybe not. But maybe it will move a reader or two to write a letter or two. And if you’re moved, I want to help!

Here’s a handy tool to find the contact information for your representatives and any representative in the country: http://www.contactingthecongress.org/

The USPS has tools and options to automate the messaging and mailing of postcards: https://www.usps.com/send/create-mail-and-postage.htm

With my next post, margagogo.com will return to its regularly scheduled programming and be back to the business of drinking margaritas and eating and laughing. But today is for a pause and a plea to our elected officials (Republicans and Democrats): Do something.

Please.

 

 

 

 

 

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There are a billion reasons to travel.

I won’t list all billion here because my blog is not the cause of anyone’s eyestrain! I want you to use your eyes for very important things – like booking a trip to Iceland. Pronto!

Really.

Iceland is the kind of place that imagination and research can’t do justice. When I read up on Iceland, I learned the Gulf Stream moderates the temperature so the island’s northern location doesn’t mean sub-zero misery. But I had no clue what it was like to spend an afternoon in a sun-hail-rain-snow-sun-storm. I didn’t know that going up a few feet, really just a few feet, could change the world from dry to snow-covered and stormy. Without making the trip, I wouldn’t have learned that the weather is changeable and brutal and beautiful and works to form not only the character of the landscape but of the people.  As we walked the streets of Reykjavik, sun smiling on our faces and hail biting our cheeks, our guide told us that “… Iceland doesn’t have weather, it has examples of weather.”  He also told us that there isn’t any bad weather, just bad clothing. (My damp, loose weave wool mittens that begged the wind and rain to turn my hands blue proved his point.)

These people can really roll with change … except when they can’t.

If you live in Iceland, 50% of the calories you consume are imported.  That must take some planning. While the geo-thermal power is impressive and gives heat and electricity to the majority of the country, it doesn’t make it cheaper or easier to buy a car or a camera or any of the other goods and services that come cheap and easy to someone living someplace other than Iceland. Lots more planning!

So go to Iceland! Expect the people to be lovely and happy to see you. And expect a quick “No” if you ask for something that strays outside the norm. (In our case, it was a late-night bottle of wine in the hotel bar and the need for a detour around a snow-closed road that caused a reflexive “No” but we worked it out.)

And when you’re there, order a margarita (or two). You’ll enjoy them because the food and cocktail scene in Reykjavik is alive and well.  Eat a lot of lamb and fish and absolutely have dinner at Dill and Grill Market (both in Reykjavik). Dill has a tasting menu with wine paring and is an experience you’ll never forget. Grill Market has amazing food served in a very cool space. I had “Red Fish.” It was described as a very ugly, angry fish that can make you sick if you come in contact with it while it’s alive. But they promised me that when they cook it, they get the ugly out and it’s delicious. And it was.

If only we had another few nights in Iceland I feel sure we’d have seen the one thing we missed: Northern Lights. For now, I have to settle for pictures on the Internet. But I feel pretty sure I’ll be back someday so I have another chance.

Thanks for reading – If you go, you should also expect to be blown away by the landscape. I hope you enjoy my pictures!

 

I think what I liked best is that the people seem to have their priorities straight!

And they have a sense of humor! Reykjavik is full of street and public art.

And the landscape is like nothing you’ve ever seen.

And finally, one of my favorite signs ever!

Do you think Iceland is used to dealing with silly tourists?

Do you think Iceland is used to dealing with silly tourists?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Yes, it’s winter.

It happens every year but this winter is extra dreary because it’s actually cold and snowy and icy and grey … and did I mention it’s really, really cold? Since anyone who resides in the ever-widening snow belt has to slog through it every day, we also endlessly talk about the weather. There’s no escape, even in our conversation, and that’s making winter even drearier.

So while New York City is likely running out of road salt, budgeted overtime hours for plow drivers and possibly patience the good citizens are, thankfully, funny as ever.

Since the weather drove me inside for the little exercise I get, I can report on SoulCycle’s hilarious request that clients practice good hygiene (they call it doing laundry).  The bikes are close together and they worry that when your neighbor takes a deep, cleansing breath, they might choke on your odor.  Flywheel’s attempt to be hip and cool with everything down to the locker instructions is also worth a chuckle as they dare you to lock up your Blackberry.

NYC, you’re doing great! Let’s keep up the humor and keep our heads on!

Greensquare Tavern, 5 West 21st St, NYC, is holding up their end in the humor department.

You should go here, not only because the signage is funny but because the food is fresh, organic and good.

If you order a margarita, the joke is on you so please steer clear. This is more of a pull of beer, pour of wine kind of place.  We ordered meatballs and being New Yorker’s, expected a single meatball centered on a giant white plate to be set between us.  But instead of gingerly cutting tiny food in half and wondering what else we’d eat, we got a bowl – and not a single meatball in a giant, but an actual bowl of meatballs!

We left Greensquare tavern nourished by the food and connected to the restaurant through our mutual dislike of Jury Duty Justin Bieber.

And we are warmed by the promise of Spring!

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This weekend, New York opened its slushy, crusty coat of winter to give us a glimpse of the blue sky and heart-warming hope of spring.  It was a spectacular February weather weekend.  It was also National Margarita Day. Coincidence?  I think not.

Spring and Margaritas have a lot on common.  In their best form, they both have a pleasant hue.  Both can make you forget your troubles.  Both can inspire love and adventure.  Both can change your perspective.

I can’t say which had more influence this weekend – spring-like weather or Margaritas.  But the good citizens of New York City were out in force and in the mood to celebrate.  I think of their numbers and zeal as an unofficial parade in honor of National Margarita Day.

There was a man on the sidewalk, tucked into the shadowy crevice of a building.  Usually this kind of beginning would have a bad ending – but not on National Margarita Day!  He was air-swinging a “golf club.” He had a cigarette perched between his lips.  He inhaled on the back swing and exhaled on the forward swing so his hands cut through his giant puff of smoke.  He smoked with no hands and golfed with no club and looked thrilled.

The grifters, dressed as your children’s favorite characters, had an extra spring in their step.  Elmo and Cookie Monster gave exuberant high-fives as they stuffed tips in their fanny packs.  Their costumes could harbor margarita sippy cups.  I picture a hat with two cup holders and straws under those furry heads.  Or maybe it was just the sunshine?

Coats were off and skin was out.  Ladies on the way to the gym let their calves loose and left their coats at home.  Grateful faces sat on benches, cheeks turned to the sun, soaking up Vitamin D.

And love was in the air.  I sat, sipping a margarita and eavesdropping on the people next to me.  Eavesdropping is a New York City hobby.  In more polite moments (or when we can’t get close enough to listen) we call it “people watching.” But I was flat-out listening to a couple on their first date. as he explained that he isn’t rich and isn’t successful but he’s glad about that because he really likes to scramble.  His ex-wife is a vindictive person and he’s in a good place about their break-up. He views it as a blessing because had they stayed together, he would have killed her.  Oh, and he cries in therapy weekly.

I tend to think that first dates need better game.  It’s wise to keep murderous thoughts to yourself if you’re hoping for date #2.  But thank the margaritas – either overconsumption or the magic in the air … she was leaning in.  I wish them well! And, I’ve taken a mental snapshot of his face if he ever comes up in an online dating match.

I went a little crazy too.

At Quality Italian, I turned down Aprile Super Oakville (2010) from Gargiulo Vineyards in favor of a margarita. Super Oakville is Gargiulo Vineyards version of a Super Tuscan or Brunello and Brunello is my favorite wine treat.  But margaritas are well, margaritas.  And I’m nothing if not dedicated to my research.

We had Chicken Parmigiana for Two (which is really enough for six).  It’s a giant, round chicken parm disguised as a pizza.  The chickens I’m used to eating doesn’t come flat and round so I’m sure a lot of manipulation (I don’t want to know) goes into this entrée.

We shared Dry-Aged Porterhouse Agnolotti and a bunch of sides.  If you go, bring your appetite.  Quality Italian is a steakhouse and the dinner menu is protein-heavy and priced to match.

And if you go, bring a lot of friends.  Even the best restaurant is helped by good company and on this night, the company was really good.

The weather here in New York has turned cold again so we tuck our skin under coats and scarves and bend our heads against the wind.   But the sun is out and hints of spring linger … and margarita magic is still (always) in the air.  I hope you can all feel it and I hope you had a wonderful National Margarita Day!

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I worried that our endlessly hard-working congress might grasp the import of issues before them, end the stalemate and open the government before I could write this blog post.

Silly me.

Would sober-minded people act to jeopardize our economy?  I think not.  So there must be a little something extra in the Congressional Water Cooler.

Is the 3 Martini Lunch back in vogue?  Is a drink hat, fitted with a donkey or elephant logo, one drink holder over each ear with straws part of the congressional orientation kit?  Do members who bother to show up for sessions have round robin tournaments of beer pong during filibusters?

So with Big Bird still safely locked behind the closed gates of the National Zoo, I have time to wonder: “What was Congress drinking when they decided it was a good idea to bring government functions to a screeching halt and what are they drinking now?”

I threw the question out to my trusty Twitter friends who, despite the multiple policy decisions they tackle in the course of a day, are reliable and responsive.

  • @Create_Daily says, “They were sipping a little too much Fishhouse Punch when they pulled the plug.”  Now he’s sure they’re “…drinking Pepto by the bottle.”
  • @mscharlies suggests, “Then: Mescal Now: Rye”
  • @margaretomara believes congress enjoyed, “Long Island Iced Tea (Parties): easy to overindulge, with potentially disastrous consequences.”
I’m so glad I asked because this is all starting to make sense to me! Picture all 535 members of congress with Long Island Iced Tea or Fishhouse Punch or Mescal in their drink hats (their choice, free country) on big decision days and then alternating between Pepto and Rye to treat the hangover.
  • ‏@WarrenBobrow1 throws his hands up and calls for “mint juleps for all!!!!”  (I think the julep might be more for us than congress though.)

There is one person who doesn’t think congressional decisions are flavored by alcohol. He doesn’t believe our elected officials are drinking at all. And while I don’t agree, I’m including his response because I believe in the integrity of Twitter Polls.  @MacCocktail says, “They’re smoking the crack rock! That’s what they’re doing!”

So come on, be truthful, how many of you have said the very same thing? Of course you say it in jest. Of course, nobody really thinks our elected officials use crack. (Marion Barry is old news and Toronto’s Mayor is obviously a Canadian.)  But it would be nice to come up with an explanation for continuous under-achieving.

Maybe our Congressmen and Senators should come hang out at Gran Electrica (5 Front Street, DUMBO, NYC).

Gran Electrica continues to over-achieve in margarita mixing and taco making. I’ve written about them before and along with members of the Independent Panel of Judges, keep going back for more. They have a back garden and on a recent fall day, I sat outside with The Panel and made friends with the people next to us. Even though we were years apart in age, miles apart in home geography and culturally mixed, we figured out how to bridge the divide between tables.

Gran Electrica - Decisions made, bridges build, margaritas drank

Gran Electrica – Decisions made, bridges built, margaritas drank

Thank you to all who took the time to respond to this Twitter Poll. I appreciate it!

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If you don’t write a post for five months, do you still have a blog?

The answer seems to be “Yes!” since wonderful, margarita-loving people around the globe clicked and read despite the lack of new content to beckon them and yesterday, the hit count on margagogo.com topped 3,000.  That my words live on in the face of my neglect is a gift, a miracle and a mystery and it has me pondering other life wonders.

And I mean the BIG stuff.  None of this stuff like, “Why do you park in a driveway and drive on a parkway?” or “Do bleached blondes pretend to have more fun?” For my first post since my last post, I’m delving deep into the mysteries of life.  Yes, I’m going there – wherever “there” is.

Wonder 1:  “The Blog is Back in Town” – Who knows this musical reference and why in the world did I choose it for this blog post title?  I don’t own an album by this band and have never downloaded a single.  But the song stuck in my head and now possibly stuck in yours too.

Wonder 2:  Why do songs get stuck in your head?  I don’t mean just the catchy Song-of-Summer.  Blurred Lines never registered for me.  (No offense to Robin Thicke who is surely capable of writing a catchy tune that will get stuck in heads everywhere.)  But random tunes burrow in and make a home.  My current musical backdrop for rainy days is Rise and Shine song:  “Noah, he built, he built and ark-y, ark-y, ark-y – So rise and shine and give God your glor-y, glor-y…” You get the idea.  The thing is, I probably haven’t heard that song since I went to Tuesday afternoon religious education when I was 8-years old.

Wonder 3:  Bacon.  Why is bacon universally loved?  (And I mean the cured meat, not Kevin Bacon though he has his own dedicated following.)  I’ve met a rare few who say they don’t eat bacon but I’ve never met anyone who says they don’t like bacon.  Bacon is the gateway meat for vegetarians who fall off the plant wagon.  People hate chocolate (huh?) and ice cream (what?) but put a little bacon in either and those same people salivate. It’s a mystery to me.

Wonder 4:  Golf. I don’t understand it. Why do people play this sport and how can networks justify putting in on television? Playing is an exercise in frustration and watching requires extraordinary mental toughness because it’s so boring.  I’m not the only one who thinks so – just ask the streaker who decided to brighten up the President’s Cup with a naked dash.

Wonder 5:  How does the Congressional Gym stay open when the government is closed?  If National Parks, the FDA, and the National Zoo closed, shouldn’t the gym shutter too?  Do congressional members need access to free treadmills so they can blow off steam while they’re blowing off the business of the country?  If they want to understand with their constituents, they should buy overpriced memberships to chain gyms that they’ll stop using after 60 days though they’ll continue monthly payments indefinitely.  They should also have similar health care to the rest of us.  I’d be fired for far lesser offenses than maneuvering the shut down of my company.

Wonder 6:  Avocado. How can an ugly, Seuss-ian orb hold so much creamy goodness? A fish oil substitute? Yes! The magic and soul of guacamole? Clearly.  More to come on the avocado. It deserves a dedicated post.  And the lovely avocado leads me to my next wonder …

Wonder 7:  Should pomegranate seeds be part of any guacamole recipe?  Ok, this is a clear continuation of Wonder 6 but this is the only Wonder I’m able to solve.  Pomegranate might be great for a lot of things. In fact, I hear it actually improves the power of sunscreen.  But as a component of guacamole?  No. The answer is no.  Uh-uh.  No way.  Not right.  Not Guacamole. I know this because I tested it at La Cenita, 409 W 14h St, NYC.

La Cenita is a new addition to the Meatpacking District and they put pomegranate seeds and pistachio nuts in their guac. The pistachio nuts I like. I’m evolving to believe that pistachio or pine nuts should be included in almost everything. But I can’t work with pomegranate seeds. They add an unwelcome sweet surprise to guacamole, a near-perfect treat in its traditional form. I suggest you get the seeds on the side.

 

La Cenita has a street theme to it. They don’t have stools at the bar and they serve their chips in paper bags with the edges rolled down.  But the standing bar-flies pay around $15 per drink so the street theme “Park Avenue” and less “Calle en Mexico”.

 

The traditional margarita on their menu is made with grapefruit juice and the flavor is overpowering.  So if you like tequila more than grapefruit, I suggest you request your marg sans this citrus.

So far, La Cenita has pulled in 2.5 stars on Yelp and the universal theme is the food is ok and really expensive but you should go once and go to be seen. But when you do go, watch your wallet.

And so margagogo.com is back in town. I’ve got much to discuss, like romance novels, the avocado, things I’m grateful for (besides romance novels and avocados) and great places for hanging out and having a drink.

So please stay tuned and thank you for hanging with me through my long blog sabbatical.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the blog is back in town!

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There’s a quote by Mr. Rogers that gets trotted out after a tragedy.  We’ve all heard it a lot over the past week and recent months and years.  Mr. Rogers  suggests that when something bad happens, look for the helpers.  The helpers are beacons of hope, pulling some good out of the terrible and offering some stability in a moment when our collective head is spinning.

It seems we need helpers more than ever.

I wonder what’s happening with the people, the elite and loud, who self-selected and asked us to trust in their willingness and ability to be helpers.  They raised their hands.  They volunteered.  They promised to be better suited for the job than anyone else.  They asked for our vote.

They weren’t drafted like the spectators in Boston who in a flash went from cheering at the finish line to making tourniquets out of t-shirts and carrying victims to safety.  Or the responders in Newtown who had to document and clean up after the slaughter of their community’s children.  Average citizens, stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time, are brave, heroic and poised.  They personify grace.  Our eyes well and chests swell with pride when their stories are on the news.

Dear United States Senators:  Take notice.

Last week, the gun bill expanding criminal background checks for gun purchase, died in the Senate.  The bill wasn’t overly ambitious.  It didn’t break new ground.  It didn’t restrict anyone’s right to buy a gun.  It didn’t move forward because our leaders are not acting as helpers.

Our elected helpers lack grace.

When I fly, I take my shoes off to get through security.  I submit to a scanner that dissolves my clothes, allowing unknown persons to check my body for lumps.  I submit to pat downs.  I don’t carry shampoo or lotion.  I do this because one crazy guy tried to blow up his shoes.  Another guy tried to light his underwear on fire.

I don’t mean to make light of these acts.  The public needs to know that the government is doing everything possible to make the sky safe.  I get it.  I agree.  The idea of a terrorist act that takes a plane full of people down is shocking and hideous.  But have we become so desensitized to violence that we don’t view mass shootings in our schools, on our streets and in our theaters with equal horror?

Are you a terrorist if you bring down a plane but you’re something less grotesque, less worthy of attention from elected helpers if you kill elementary school kids or college students or movie watchers or elected officials?

I’ve written and rewritten this post.  I feel woefully ill-equipped to discuss the issues surrounding guns and violence.  And I’m afraid our legislators are counting on that – They’re hoping to never feel heat from their constituents since they already feel pressure from lobbyists.  My thoughts in this little margarita blog might not mean anything but maybe by raising my voice, I can (in a small way) be a helper too.

So though I worry I don’t have a firm grasp on all the forces that rule the day, my representatives should know this:

I hold you responsible for my safety and the safety of those I love and safety of those I’ll never meet.  I think mass killings are acts of terror and the person who carries out the carnage is a terrorist.  And you, our elected helpers, must act with the same urgency and solution based thought to prevent the next school shooting as you do to prevent other acts of terror.  You asked us to make you leaders.  You can’t be less heroic than innocent bystanders who never asked for the role.  It can’t be too much to ask for you to be honest, to engage in fair dialog and to put your personal interest after the interest of the country.

The margagogo.com  Seattle Bureau Chief raised her voice when she wrote to Senator Mark Pryor, one of the four democrats who voted against the gun control measure and a representative from her home state in Arkansas.  She said in part:  “… although … I understand the election-year pressures you face, the lost lives in Newtown — and the hundreds of others lost in Arkansas and around the nation every year — are more precious than politics.”

At this point in my blog, I usually write about a drink I enjoyed (or didn’t) or a restaurant I visited and I tie the mixology and gastronomy to the blog topic.  Around the issue of violence and safety, terrorists and terrorism, we need to be sober so today, I have no drinks to share.  Hopefully, someday, we can toast to progress and celebrate an era when we don’t have a second thought for our safety.

And for those who don’t remember, the Mr. Roger’s quote is:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

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