Saturday, November 24, 2007

High School Reunion.

I went to my 25th high school reunion last night. I realize by mentioning the year, I've given you enough information to figure out that I am, in fact, old. For the longest time, I was always the youngster in the group, what happened? Thankfully, I still look fairly young. At least that's what my old high school mates told me at the Elks Club last night. For that, I suppose I have good genes and low stress living to thank. After all, I grew up in a time before UVA/UVB sunscreens and Paba. In those days, you could find baby oil on the sunscreen shelf. So I consider myself doubly lucky. Or living on borrowed time.

In any event, my reunion was a lot of fun. If you get a high school reunion invite in the mail someday, I recommend you go. It's your chance to sneak through a little wormhole and be transported back to a forgotten era of your life. It's the strangest thing, standing again in a room full of people you literally grew up with. But something's different. Everyone's been morphed into grown-ups, with jobs, and kids, and responsibilities. Some with a few extra pounds or a few less hairs. Guys you idolized as a kid are just regular guys now. The girl of your adolescent dreams still looks great, but now she's got a ring on her finger and a picture of her two beautiful little girls in her pocketbook. It's a bit surreal, but in a good way.

You work your way around the room, saying hello to friends you haven't seen for over half your life.

"Great to see you."
"Great to see you."
"Where you living now? Got any kids? What are you doing?"
"I'm living in... 2 kids... Selling life insurance... And you?"

Couple laughs, a story or two, swig of beer, and it's off to the next group of high school friends.

I was impressed there was no, 'look how successful I am' or 'aren't my kids amazing'. Just genuine happy to see you again after all these years energy.

And aside from the collage of high school yearbook photos on display and the Pina Colada song playing in the background, there's little reminiscing of the old high school days. Everyone seems interested in the now. I like that. Someone mentions 'wouldn't it have been cool to have some of our old teachers here'. I concur and wonder which ones are still around. There's a few I'd like to thank for skills I thought trivial as a tenth grader. Like typing and writing. Many of those teachers seemed old two and a half decades ago. But then again thirty-two seems ancient when you're seventeen.

My reunion was also one with my old hometown too. I made the obligatory drive by the house I grew up in. Cased some of the old haunts. My favorite fishing hole. The not-so-big-anymore hill we used to race down on our 3-speeds with the banana seat and baseball cards clacking in the spokes. Again, it's all so 'the same but different'. The old corner store at the end of my road has grown-up into a strip mall, fully equipt with gelateria and eco-friendly dry cleaner. The little schoolhouses I shuffled to every morning with my Partridge Family lunchbox have been transformed into giant educational complexes that look more like correctional facilities. I grew up in a town that didn't have a single fast food joint until I was in college. That same town now has a mall, a Home Depot, luxury condos on every downtown block, and garden style apartments that sell for $250K.

I was raised in a quaint little town just like my new hometown of Easthampton. It makes me wonder where it'll be in a couple twenty years. I'm sure it'll be more developed and seasoned by time, but hopefully still look good and retain a bit of its charm.

Just like that gang I hung out with last night.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

First Snow of the Season.

Two days before Thanksgiving, reality check, seems winter really is just around the corner. I'm sure the unexpected sight of snow this morning was an unwelcomed guest for some, but for me it was a great chance to sneak in a little photo shoot before the next round of pie making. Here's one more...
Safe travels and Happy Turkey to you and yours.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Turkey Day push.

Buried up to my elbows in ice cream this week, getting all those ice cream pies ready for the big Thanksgiving rush on Wednesday. No time to blog on about anything of substance (not that there's ever much substance) until after T-day. In the meantime, instead of 'this page intentionally left blank.', I thought I'd drop in a pic of a pint of vanilla. Because I can.

If I don't see you, Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. May you end up with the long end of the wishbone and a good wish to cash in.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Wife, it's not what you think...

I got an interesting email the other day. It was from a producer at ABC's show, WifeSwap. I've never really watched it, but I suspect the gist of it is they take two families, likely with an overbearing father or unappreciated mother or wild kids I'm guessing, and swap the mothers for six days. According to the email, WifeSwap is in its fourth season, so there must be some watchable moments. But then again, I think Jerry Springer is syndicated all over the world, so I suppose watchable is a loose term. Here's the email:
My name is Michelle Silva, and I am an Associate Producer for ABC's Wife Swap. For our 4th season, we are looking to feature a family that LOVES candy! We are searching for family-run candy shops, chocolatiers, confectioners, etc. Even if your family doesn’t work in the candy industry, we would still love to hear from you if you adore candy!

This opportunity is very real, and this email is NOT spam. I came across your company information by doing a general search and thought you might be able to assist us. If your company is a larger corporation, feel free to pass this along to all levels of employees. We are not looking for a specific type of family—every family is different and has a story. Personality is a must! Our show is fun for the whole family and an overall unique experience!

Any person who refers a featured family receives a $1,000 referral award.

In order to apply for the show, families must have two parents and at least one child between the ages of 6-18 still living at home. If your family doesn’t fit our profile, feel free to recommend friends and family.

Families selected to appear on the show receive $20,000 from ABC Television.
If you know any colorful candyfreaks who fit their family definition (2 parents, at least one child aged 6-18), feel free to drop me a line . The $1K finders fee would be sweet, but better yet, it would make for a great story for the ICD. $20K for the selected family would buy a lot of mallow cups and whistle pops...

Pass the Pumpkin Ice Cream pie...

You heard it right. Pumpkin Ice Cream pie. It's an ice cream pie made with Mt. Tom's pumpkin pie ice cream on a bed of sugar cookie crunchy things. Topped off with a pinch or two of chocolate sprinkles and a buttercream icing border. Mmm. I sell a bunch of these tasty desserts for Thanksgiving. Making ice cream pies and tubs of vanilla is pretty much all I do for the four or five days leading up to the wednesday before Turkey Day. It's a nice little late November win-win. My customers get a cool dessert to bring or serve for Thanksgiving dinner, and I enjoy a tiring but helpful opportunity to cover for the slowdown in sales on account of the cooler weather and shorter days. I think you should call and reserve yours today. But that's just my opinion.
By the way, that's not actually a pumpkin pie ice cream pie pictured. It's an equally tasty cashew turtle pie, albeit slightly more photogenic than the pumpkin. Vanilla ice cream topped with wicked good fudge, caramel, and salted, roasted cashews and a cookie crunch on the bottom. Feel free to order up one of those too. Did I mention the deer trax pie yet?

My name is Jim Ingram, and I approved this ad.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Kate Rocks.

Looking for something to do Saturday night? How about starting off your evening with Easthampton's monthly 'ArtWalk'. It runs from 5 - 8 pm every second Saturday of the month, which means the next one is up this weekend. There are over 50 venues this month, nice. This sucker is growing every month! It was founded and is coordinated by Michael Crawford and Thomas Hanus. Here's the map for this month's event. This month showing in my shop is the art of my goth friend Kate Fontaine. She's got a unique style, intriguing and 'gotta see them for yourself' cool paintings fill the walls of the shop through early December. If you're able to make it out for an art stroll, stop in, meet Kate, and check 'em out. I'll even have some gourmet chocolates and great Indigo Roasters Organic French Roast coffee waiting for you.

And if you don't make it this month, the next ArtWalk is December 8th. I just booked myself to do a show in my shop for that one. I'm calling it 'Shoot Local', and it'll be a collection of my favorite images of this year, 2007. More on that as it gets closer.

And don't forget another great local art weekend, Open Studios Easthampton. It's the weekend of November 30th thru December 2nd.

So much art, so little time.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

October's Top 10.

October's Top 10 Ice Cream Sales:

1. Vanilla
2. Pumpkin Pie
3. Chocolate
4. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
5. Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup
6. Deer Trax
7. Chocolate Fudge Brownie
8. Peppermint Stick
9. Cake Batter
10. Chocolate Chip

No big surprises here...except of course, Pumpkin Pie beating out not only the usual heavy hitters, but chocolate, no less. Impressive. And it's not even Thanksgiving yet....

Friday, November 02, 2007

How writing a book about Starbucks saved my life.

I just finished the book, 'How Starbucks Saved My Life', by Michael Gates Gill. It's a coming of middle age story about a guy who crashed from riches to rags, untimately landing standing behind a Starbucks counter. I expected it to be a cheesy read, and it probably won't win a Pulitzer anytime soon, but I actually found it hard to put down. The protagonistic in this autobiography is a big shot ad executive who, at sixty, finds himself victim of something I've had first hand experience with, downsizing. At the same time, his wife leaves him after discovering he's about to become a daddy with another mommy. And to round off the misery, he learns he has a brain tumor. And he's broke.

While sipping a latte in a Starbucks one day in Bronxville, NY, he meets the manager as she's conducting a little job fair for the store. Kiddingly, she says to him, 'You want a job?'. Seriously, he answers, 'Yes.'

From there the story takes us through his first challenging days and months behind the counter of an always bustling NYC Starbucks. He describes the physical and psychological challenges of a sixty year old white guy with an Ivy League education just trying to survive in a very visible entry level job. I certainly can relate to the intimidation factor of working in retail. Before I started this ice cream gig, I'd never worked a day in retail, to quote a Barenaked Ladies song. It's scary at first. As it was that first day for this guy in a Starbucks. He tells how good he got at cleaning bathrooms and how relieved to be doing that rather than going to the front line, which of course, eventually did happen. Just like anyone venturing outside their comfort zone, he survived, and eventually learned to really enjoy it - chatting with the regular customers, making people happy, and putting out a friendly face for his new employer.

Parts of the book read like a Starbucks infomercial, but all big company/chain bashing aside, it does sound like they treat their employees well. Health insurance, tuition reimbursement, and general respect for employees as well as 'guests' are emphasized throughout this 'finding contentment despite losing everything and having to work for tips in a coffee shop' tale.

I recently read that Tom Hanks has signed up to make 'How Starbucks Saved My Life' into a movie. It's an unlikely story about figuring out what's really important in life. It's about taking the breaks you get and making the most of them, even if they may seem 'beneath you'. It's about taking responsibility for your lot, accepting it without drowning in a puddle of self-pity, and moving forward, even if it means one latte at a time. What's not to like about a story like that.

From the intro to chapter four (also published on the side of a venti Americano coffee cup) -

"Let go your sadness, give up the fight, follow your madness and take flight...take flight."
-lyric by Seal.

Halloween Mt. Tom's Style.

Hope yours was full of a good mix of tricks and treats. (Carve credits to Briana, nice work)