I am beginning to think that American urban planners have a pathological hatred of pedestrians. Oh, sure, there’s the usual problem of not having a lot of pavements around, but I’ve discovered a far more devious and sinister scheme on their part. To whit:
You’re walking down a fairly busy road, happily walking along the pavement, enjoying the day, when all of a sudden, you realize that the pavement is about to run out, turning into dirt grass. Now, perhaps in summer, this is fine, but after a week of rain, not so much. However, when you look across the road, you see that a line of pavement has begun where before there was only mud. Your choice is to possibly ruin your shoes, or cross. And of course, there’s no crossing point, so you take your life in your hands and run across the busy road, back in the safe confines of concrete.
Until you walk about five hundred metres, at which point, the pavement disappears. However, it has started back on the other side again.
This process repeats enough times that I’m convinced that planners take bets on how many walkers they can bump off in a year.
(having said that, Durham is a bit friendlier than your typical small American city when it comes to pedestrian and public transit facilities. Can you imagine travelling anywhere in Oxford on the bus network for $1? Or a day pass offering unlimited day travel for $2? And a free bus service connecting downtown Oxford to the Cowley Road and Summertown? And run by the city instead of scum like Stagecoach? I tell you, the dark socialist future that Obama heralds IS ALREADY HERE. RUN FOR THE HILLS)
Right, having got my moan out of the way, something a little more positive. When I first lived here back in 2002, my exposure to American food was pretty woeful. I pretty much lived in Miami Subs, Panera, and I Love NY Pizza, supplemented by scary things then went into the microwave and came out as flowing molten slabs of cheese and pepperoni. Happily, I was taken under the wing of my eventual wife, who has expanded my horizons quite considerably, to the extent that I’ll be attempting oysters next week (not entirely sure about those, but we’ll see!).
(UPDATE: Oysters did not go well. Mac and Cheese much better, though!)
There’s been a few great meals so far on this holiday, but the standout at the moment has to be the soup dumplings at Asian Grill in Raleigh. They’re like magic - meat and a jellied broth enclosed in dumpling pastry, then steamed, which turns the jelly back into a piping hot liquid, but still inside the dumpling. Heston Blumenthal himself couldn’t improve on it (doubtless, he’d add truffle oil somewhere…). We went back on Saturday and ordered two plates of six (between three of us, I might add!), only to be told off by the front of house for not trying something new. We did point out that we were coming back in a week, and left with a bunch of suggestions for next time. Mind you, I do fancy the Dan Dan noodles again!