Tuesday, January 15, 2002

HOW DID JACQUELINE AND I spend the weekend? Well, we fell into a short-lived love affair with a stove.

Saturday morning came without a hint of a plan in sight, and when the telemarketer awakened us for good at 9-something we decided in unison: "The new Ikea!" The huge Swedish furniture store's huge location in the huge Potomac Mills outlet mall 40 minutes or so south of Washington apparently wasn't huge enough, so the Swedes have built a bigger one in the mall's parking lot.

We hadn't seen the new store yet, and so we drove down. For once it wasn't raining (usually a trip to Potomac Mills coincides with a cloudburst). It's huge, all right. The one item that bought our eye, as the Monty Python sketch goes, was a white Frigidaire stove that struck us as irresistibly retro. It was a gas stove, naturally, so there were the nice metal burner grate/pot rests rather than the sleek but too modern flat burners of the expensive electric ranges or the retro-in-a-bad-way coils of the cheap ones. The knobs were pleasantly clunky, fitting nicely with the (retro, but quite possibly unintentionally so) clunky chrome pulls of the accompanying cabinets. The stove was $999, a number that we filed away as a little surprising -- but what did we know? We'd never shopped for stoves before.

But, in fact, we sort of need a stove. It's not a huge hardship to use the little butane barbecue torch to light the front burners that the Sears Home Central bastards had apparently fixed for a more-than-apparent 300 bucks (but which gave out, sporadically and so gradually that there was never an obvious time to call and complain). The stove has some burn marks, though (you'd think they'd be fireproof), and that cool new late-'50s-automobile logo would look much better than our stupid little Magic Chef insignia.

And so we hadn't even made it home before we realized we might be wanting that $999 stove real soon. We had just seen a "Designers' Challenge" episode in which an antique stove (picked from a store full of 'em!) figured prominently, which did nothing to dull our acquisitiveness. But that Frigidaire Web site didn't appear to have that Ikea stove. Suddenly we didn't remember what exactly was so appealing about the stove, aside from that nameplate. So on Sunday we started driving around again. At Lowe's we saw a nice-enough stove with that Frigidaire logo, for about $600. We would have to go back to Ikea to see just what was so special about this $999 stove.

The answer: just the typeface on that Frigidaire logo. The $999 Ikea stove was the $600 Lowe's stove with some complementary cabinetry. We still might want that Frigidaire model, but, oddly enough, the huge price cut has made it less of a must.

Saturday, January 05, 2002

WHILE I'M WHORING for Amazon.com kickback points (The Strokes' "Is This It"! It's great! Also, buy yourself a Canon Digital Elph!), have I mentioned Louis Bayard's novel "Endangered Species"?

Here's how simple I am: The book is set in my neighborhood, so I'm flushed with delight at every mention of the Greek restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue or the Korean grocer around the corner. But it's a smart and funny read, and I'm sure I'd be saying so even if it didn't start at the Cuban-Mexican restaurant/gay piano bar on Eighth Street SE, Capitol Hill's answer to the Bronx. I'm not gay and I don't want kids, but this is one heck of a book about a gay guy who wants to father a child.

Friday, January 04, 2002

WHERE DID NOVEMBER AND DECEMBER GO? Sorry 'bout that. You get forgetful when you turn 40.

One gem from the post-holiday shopping-for-me spree. (Well, two, but you'll hear plenty about the Canon Digital Elph later.) You won't find a lot of rock-'n'-roll recommendations in this space, but I have to mention the brilliance of the Strokes' "Is This It."

I realize I'm many months behind on this, but I don't follow the young whippersnappers' music the way I did when I was a young whippersnapper. And I made the discovery quite on my own: I came across the "Last Nite" video on M2 while flipping channels, and I awakened Jacqueline to tell her I had seen the future of rock. Only when I did a couple of Web searches the next day did I find out that the critics had already said that. In fact, the backlash had already begun.

What's so good about this album? The phrase "pure pop for now people" comes to mind, but that's been used. And this is a little gritty to be called pop. It does remind me of Iggy Pop. And the Jam. This of all the good things they said about Green Day, only this time it's all true.

It's simple, it's catchy, it just works. Buy the album.

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