Turned out to be easier than I thought. More delicious, too.
Probing my hunch that there is life beyond the television on Sundays in the fall, I hopped in my old Mazda Protege and did what I love doing during the rest of the year ... letting the car take me wherever she felt like going. No destination in mind, no ETA on a return. Sometimes the spontaneous day trips last two hours. Others go for up to seventeen.
It was a beautiful day for a drive and my car headed around the beltway to I-270 North. I know any day I end up on 270 North is going to be a good one. My girlfriend Won-ok and I saw a sign at Exit 16 that read "attractions" and pointed right. The Mazda pulled right and off we went looking for what these unnamed sites in or near Germantown, Maryland might be.
We didn't make it that far.
Our eyes lit up when we passed a hand-made sign pointing to a combination of an estate sale and yard sale. As owners of Orion's Attic -- a growing little side business that sells art, antiques, used furniture and collectibles -- there was no way we could pass that up. We've met the most amazing people at yard sales along the countryside and we have brought home some mighty fine pieces.
"Barbara" had all kinds of things for us to look at. We snagged a couple of pieces of pottery and glass at the first table and then wandered into the basement. I jumped at the chance to buy a kind of lamp I've never seen ... it's like a three-tiered banquet lamp on an extension rod that goes from floor to ceiling. We found some other neat stuff and then had trouble taking our eyes off a pair of turn-of-the-century chairs reupholstered in a deep raspberry-colored fabric. Barbara showed us a picture of her grandparents and told us that they brought the chairs with them from England.
We sat for a spell and contemplated the purchase. The price was right and we knew we would have no trouble making our money back but didn't know what kind of profit might be there -- if we sold them. The chairs were quite comfy so we accepted the offer and figured we'd give them a test-drive at home first.
The purchase prompted an ATM run as it was a cash-only transaction. We stumbled onto a Border's bookstore that was selling every remaining book for 90-percent off. The chain is going out of business, of course, and we quickly filled a bag.
We returned to pay for the chairs and got lucky again. With about one-fourth of an inch to spare, both chairs fit in my car and spared us a return trip.
No question where we were headed next. Though we saw no sign from the main road, we passed a small one pointing to Butler's Orchard en route to the estate sale. Any orchard has to have some scrumptious stuff ready for sale, right?
We arrived in plenty of time to pick fresh raspberries. The 15-cent cardboard container wouldn't do, either. We had to have the $1.50 souvenir bucket so we had a keepsake long after the fresh fruit was gone. We drove along a winding, gravel-and-dirt path to the raspberries. Their unmistakable sweet scent wafted over us as soon as we got out of the car.
I don't know how much time passed while we were in the field picking a few pounds of the treat right off the vines. Patches of blue sky sat atop some of the rolling hills stretching toward the horizon; a few gentle rain drops came in from behind others. I stood there for a moment breathing in the raspberries, feeling the sun and rain alternatively grace my skin, and munching on an occasional berry before it reached the bucket.
I was shocked to realize I did not miss the NFL one bit.
My litany of reasons for reducing my pro football intake is indeed a long one. Atop the list? All-talk, no-action commissioner Roger Goodell never really punishes any player no matter how heinous or stupid his crime. You can get drunk and kill a man while driving, bring a loaded gun into a New York club, do as you wish with an under-age college girl and torture dogs for years on end and barely miss a game once you're out of jail. It's tough to stomach a league that allows the likes of Donte Stallworth, Plaxico Burress, Ben Roethlisberger and Michael Vick to star in its ranks.
Then these very same athletes and their colleagues have the audacity to complain they are "under-paid" and induce a lockout in which the owners collapse like a house of cards? (The owners should have thrown away the lockout key for a year. Let the players work a regular job and see how they like that.)
This is clearly a league that deserves less of my time and money. I cut my consumption back about 60 percent last season. Standing there in the sweet air nibbling on raspberries, I knew I was capable of cutting back further.
Half the bucket filled, we headed to the Butler's Orchard market to see what else wanted a ride back to Silver Spring. It didn't take long to fill a small cart. I already had ribs marinating back home so buying Butler's Smoky Rib Sauce was a no-brainer. We also loaded up on the orchard's jams, preserves, candy, pears and vegetables.
Getting back on the interstate to head home, I didn't even turn the radio to a sports station to find out whether my favorite teams won or lost. I simply tuned in a country radio station that two Redskins fans told us about at a stoplight on the way to the ATM.
I know I won't be able to go cold turkey on the NFL season but the antique and culinary delights give me hope for a more serious football diet. I just finished the lip-smacking BBQ ribs, chasing them with a bowl of raspberries for dessert.
There is an autumn world beyond the NFL out there. I'll see what part of it I can find next Sunday, too.