Archive for January, 2005

Clinton Restaurant Politics

The first thing I noticed when my old friend Rick O’Shea arrived at our usual coffee shop was the briefcase stuffed under his arm.  The leather case, which looked as if it had been left outside since 1971, was positively bursting with papers.  Now, I have never known my old friend to even CARRY a briefcase, never mind one that looks to be so actively in use. 

When he got to our table, he flounced into a chair and plunked the overworked piece of cow skin on the table.  He then took a moment to mop his brow with a paper napkin before leaning towards me in a decidedly conspiratorial manner. 

He looked in both directions, in case anyone in the coffee shop was more interested in our conversation than in their bear claws.  Satisfied that we had reasonable privacy, he whispered, “I’m opening a restaurant.  I’ve been working on it for months.” 

I was surprised.  Rick didn’t usually have enough energy to change a television channel.  He’s been known to sit through hours of Juice Master testimonials because the remote control was out of reach. 

“It’s not going to be just any restaurant,” he continued, “it’s going to be the best of the best.  Six stars.” 

Rick, six stars?  I don’t even think that there ARE six stars. 

“Whatever.  I called in a lot of favors on this one.  I’m going to have a different celebrity chef there every month.  All of the Food Network people will be there:  Bobby Flay, Wolfgang Puck, Alton Brown, Rachael Ray…heck, I even have all of the Iron Chefs from the original show taking a turn.” 

Um, right.  Sure.  Rachael Ray.  Your calendar is early.  April 1st isn’t for a few more months. 

“I know.  I wouldn’t believe me, either, but it’s all true.  You know that guy from the original Iron Chef show?  The one who almost chokes to death on a yellow pepper during the intro?  I met him at a sumo match once, and we really hit it off.  He knows everyone in the business.”

Takeshi Kaga?  The actor?  Does he even speak English?  And you met him at a SUMO match?  Where? In JAPAN? 

“Yep, that’s the guy.  He really knows his sumo.  Anyway, I’m just about all set with the planning.  The New York Times is sending a reporter out later today to talk to me about it.  It’s the biggest news in food.” 

This is all just a bit overwhelming.  Where is this restaurant going to be? 

“Right here in beautiful Clinton, Massachusetts.  That’s why everyone is so excited about it. Imagine it, fine dining escapes the city.  It’s all set.”  He patted his battered briefcase.  “There’s just one more thing I need to do.” 

What’s that? 

“Get approved for a liquor license so that I can serve wine.  I’m having some of the finest wines on earth shipped next month.  Rick’s Cafe will have the best food and the best wine anywhere.” 

Uh-oh. 

“What do you mean, ‘uh-oh’”? 

Well, it’s just that the Clinton Board of Selectmen recently voted to deny the Cocoa Crème Café a liquor license.  The Board seems to feel that the Town of Clinton is already well served by its current drinking establishments. 

“But…I’m not talking about some rowdy place here.  It’s going to be a nice restaurant.  Fine dining.  The best chefs in the country.  BOBBY FLAY!” 

The Board seems to feel that additional liquor licenses just aren’t good for the town, Bobby Flay or no Bobby Flay.  The Café owner said that she just wanted to serve drinks with dinner, but the Board still shot down her application twice. 

“That was the only reason?  Nothing else?  That can’t be the only reason.” 

All I know is what they said.  There could be another option, though.  There is a guy in town who has a liquor license, but no drinking establishment.  The Board voted to give him another six months to open a new place. 

“But I thought they didn’t want any new drinking establishments?” 

I guess they consider it of the existing establishments that is serving the town well.  Anyway, after they voted, I heard one of the Selectmen go out of his way to specifically note for the record that the license could be sold if the guy wanted to sell it.  So, maybe you could talk to the guy and cough up some dough for his license. 

“Nah, nothing doing.  I know when I’m not welcome.  If you were me, where would you go?” 

Well, maybe you could try opening the restaurant in Berlin. 

“Berlin?  Did Wolfgang Puck put you up to this?  That sneak.  I already told him that Germany is OUT!”

The Day to Day Grind Tim 28 Jan 2005 No Comments

Time

Time.  Pink Floyd wrote a song about it.  Poems were written about it.  Time is probably the most wasted resource on Earth.  Corporations, governments, and other people constantly engage themselves in the thoughtless waste of my time.  I am a person who gets extremely frustrated when my time is wasted for no reason, so if you have a spare minute or two, I’d like to share a couple of these frustrations with you.

Automatic hand dryers are a common example of corporations wasting people’s time in an effort to save money on paper towels.  It is a bad feeling to wash your hands in a public bathroom, only to turn and see that the only option provided for the next step in the hand-washing process is the dreaded wind machine.  If you have ever stood in front of one of these machines, fruitlessly rubbing your hands together under a stream of cool air, you may have noticed that the air dryers are covered in propaganda written in an attempt to justify their existence. 

The biggest claim that is printed on these dryers is that they are more sanitary than paper towels.  Bull.  Blowing germs all over the bathroom can’t possibly be more sanitary than wiping them on a paper towel.  Most people just give up and wipe their hands on their pants, while some people skip the entire hand washing process simply to avoid the choice between pants and wasted time in front of the blower (I know who you are, and if I refuse to shake your hand, you’ll know why). This is even worse than blowing the germs all over the room, in my humble opinion.  Not only that, but as bad as it is to be wasting time standing in front of the dryer, it’s much worse to be the person WAITING IN LINE to use it.

One of the worst offenders of wasted time in the world is the government’s practice of charging tolls to use the roads that our tax dollars paid to build.  This not only unnecessarily drains the commuter’s pocketbook, but these tollbooths create an incredible number of traffic jams, which waste the precious lives of the commuters who have to wait in them.

Here in Massachusetts we have the Massachusetts Turnpike (catchy nickname:  “The Pike”), built upon the promise that the tollbooths would come down once the road was paid off.  Well, The Pike has been paid off many times over, but anyone who believed that our loving government was really going allow the booths to come down should call me regarding the sale of my Jeep (I haven’t had any trouble with it, I promise).  These tollbooths generate quite a bit of money for the state, enough money that the state is running out of things to do with the money.  The latest scheme is to dig a really large hole in the City of Boston and fill it with cash.

Besides giving our government more money to waste, these tollbooths also create incredible traffic jams that wouldn’t otherwise exist.  Every person in those cars is having their time wasted, courtesy of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  If you see someone with “clutch leg” (left leg twice as large as right leg due to time spent pressing on the clutch), it is usually a good bet that they are a commuter on The Pike. 

The Commonwealth is actually trying to relieve the traffic jams while still taking our money by creating a program called Fast Lane.  This program involves sticking a transponder to your windshield, which automatically removes money from your account when you drive through a special Fast Lane toll lane.  The benefit of this is that you don’t have to stop to roll down your window and get change and all that, which actually does speed things up.

I signed up for Fast Lane this year, and it is wonderful.  I still have to wait in the traffic jams, because the Fast Lane traffic doesn’t sort out until you actually get near the tollbooths, but when I get there, I can pick my lane and drive right through.  After I had been using Fast Lane for a month, I noticed that the Commonwealth had thoughtfully sent me a statement detailing all the charges to my account.  Of course, when I received my first statement, they also thoughtfully included a postcard that I need to return to them, at my expense, if I wish to continue to receive a monthly statement.  On this postcard, I need to write my 86-digit transponder ID, or else the Commonwealth will keep track of how much of my money is spent without letting me in on the secret.

I’m thinking that I won’t send in the card.  The Commonwealth is very careful about how they spend my tax dollars, I’m sure they can be trusted.  For example, a while back, our Lt. Governor decided that her time was too valuable to be spent waiting in the traffic created by these tollbooths, so she took a State Police helicopter ride home on the day before Thanksgiving.  That only cost a few thousand dollars, but her time is much more important than my time, so I completely understand.

Anyway, these are just two of the things in my life that aggravate me.  I don’t want to sound too grumpy in my old age, but there are a number of other annoying things other than wasted time that deserve space (the Yankees, Katie Couric), but they will have to wait for a future column because there is no space left in this one.  I can’t believe I wrote that much about hand dryers!

The Day to Day Grind Tim 21 Jan 2005 2 Comments

Hot Flashes

Due to my lack of free time, I am throwing together another column in the dot dot dot format for your reading pleasure.  This column will deal with some of the silly things I have done in my life.  I apologize for not providing a better introduction, and I realize that by publishing this, I am running the risk of breaking my high school English teacher’s heart.

…When my cousin’s dog was a puppy, it could not control its bladder.  Every time the puppy would get excited, it would pee all over the place.  So, my cousin was at a family gathering, sitting in a lawn chair minding her own business, when I snuck up on her and carefully aimed the puppy at her. 

My memory is that the scene happened in slow motion; she slowly turned to look at me while I began to furiously tickle the puppy.  I will never forget the look of surprise and disgust on her face as the puppy liberally peed all over her.  To this day, this incident ranks both as one of the funniest things I have ever seen and something I feel pretty badly about.  Luckily, my cousin has a good sense of humor and is still on speaking terms with me….

…My sophomore year in college, I was sitting in my friend Sean’s room watching TV when we heard some little kids shouting outside.  We, living up to the high standards generally expected of college students, immediately stuck our heads out the window and suggested that the children might want to consider being quiet.  They, being children in the City of Lowell, responded with rude gestures and commanded us to perform physical impossibilities upon ourselves.  We, expecting that this would end the argument, promptly invited them to come up into the dorms and repeat their requests.  To our surprise, they each scooped up large handfuls of snow and began sprinting for the dorm entrance.

We, aspiring to be good hosts in the style of Martha Stewart, began hurriedly filling buckets with water.  We did not want our young guests to feel that we had not prepared anything for their arrival.  We heard them tromp up the stairs, and waited in giddy silence.  When they reached our floor, we heard them roaming down the hall, calling out, “Hello…Hello”.  We waited until they were directly in front of Sean’s door.  Sean tore the door open and the little miscreants stared in disbelief as I shouted “HELLO!!”  They stared at me with open mouths (probably in the middle of a “hello”) as the water from the bucket completely soaked both of them.

They began screaming and ran for the stairs with me, also screaming, in close pursuit (kind of like Han Solo chasing the storm troopers down a Death Star hallway).  They had just begun to run down the stairs when I unloaded the second bucket of water down onto them.  When I had finished laughing loudly down the stairs at the retreating figures, I turned and almost ran over my RA (uh-oh), who had been standing there with his arms crossed, watching the entire episode (For those of you not familiar with RA’s, they are sort of like the babysitters of college).

I stared at him, mouth agape.  The realization hit me that this could GO ON MY PERMANENT RECORD.  My future would be ruined because I had soaked innocent children with buckets of water.  I quickly looked at Sean for help, but he had quickly retreated to his room and shut the door (Bok, Bok!!  I think I saw feathers floating in the air outside his door).  I waited in silent anticipation for the RA to dole out my punishment.  He looked at me very seriously for a time, and then exploded into a rolling fit of giggling and laughter, showering me with spit in the process.  I think I might have preferred the permanent record…

…That year in college is worth at least a column by itself, if not a low budget film.  One night, a bunch of us were sitting in Sean’s room, watching TV (sound familiar?) when we decided to mess with our friend Pickle (I won’t go into the nickname).  Pickle had gone out drinking without us that night and had returned in a slightly wobbly state, which made him the perfect victim.

We waited until he stumbled to the bathroom, and while he was gone we snuck into his room and adjusted every clock in his room, including his watch, to read two hours later, so that instead of reading the actual time of 11pm, it showed 1am.  We got out of the room and were standing in the hallway, pretending to have a conversation, when Pickle came staggering back down the hall.  He mumbled something incoherent at us and went into his room, almost killing himself with the effort of closing the door properly.

To hear him tell the story later, he woke up at his usual time of 7:30am (really 5:30am), feeling unbelievably tired.  He couldn’t believe he had drunk enough to feel so terrible, but he took a shower, got dressed and went down to breakfast.  He was halfway through a plate of pancakes, wondering why the only people around were on the crew team, when he happened to glance at the clock on the wall of the cafeteria.

Needless to say, he wasn’t very happy.  He snooped around for the rest of the semester trying to discover who had played that prank upon him, but no one would ever tell him.  Not until now.  Pickle, it was all of us.  We were all involved.  I think he suspected that I was involved, however, because a few weeks later I came home late at night from a party to discover that someone had stolen my blankets and filled my pillowcase with crumpled newspaper.

Ok, that is all I have for now.  This is the conclusion portion of the column.  Thank you for reading it, now go live your life.  Mrs. Cottier, please forgive me.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 14 Jan 2005 No Comments

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