Tag Archives: Restaurants

The Week in My World 9-23-11

The gnawing of homesickness abrades—not for my native home, but for someplace that feels like home. But whether inspiration to act is born of ecstasy or sorrow, the result is the same—you are moved to discover resourcefulness you didn’t know you had.

Finding Love in Arizona

The two dogs rescued from my neighbors have been adopted into wonderful homes. I continue to keep a close watch on the yard, which right now is blissfully empty. But there are thousands more animals hanging on to life in similar hells. All mammals have an instinctive will to live. I am researching how to approach schools to talk about how to care for animals. There are scripts to be learned and protocols to follow.

A Story to Share with My Victims

I promise never to use the word share unless it’s to share buried treasure, my bed with dogs and cats, or pizza with a friend. I promise to never share news, an absurd encounter, or personal confessions. Those, I’ll just flat out tell you. Leave the word share for something tangible, like your meal or your toys. You may not notice the almost imperceptible cringe of a polite person when you say you have a story to share, but it’s there.

The Trials of Tag Surfing

A good way to show disrespect to your readers is frequent use of the following phrases:

As I said  •  as I said before  •  like I said    as many of you know    as I mentioned before    I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a while    I haven’t posted in a while and for this I deeply apologize    now I know a lot of people will be surprised about this revelation  •  everyone who reads my blog knows how I feel about  •  if you know me then you know that when I  •  it’s a well-known fact that I do not like…

All these phrases do is highlight your ego.

Was it a Girl Shad or a Boy Shad?

Before personal computers existed, I ran a typesetting shop for 12 years. My job was not to edit, but to set the type for a variety of businesses—but naturally I corrected errors. One of my clients was the Griswold Inn, a historic restaurant and inn in Essex, Connecticut. The inn changed its menus frequently and was a steady customer.

The owner at the time was a wealthy businessman from New York who used pompous phrases such as “I’ll see you in a fortnight” or “ring me up” or “it’s frightfully good.” Brochures outlining the inn’s history were available in the lobby, typeset and printed long before I came on board. The owner wanted to make some revisions and asked me to re-typeset the brochure. As I was typing it and fixing the usual errors made by careless typesetters (and careless business owners who sign off on proofs before printing), I came across a howler I will never forget. The copy explained how the inn was situated at the mouth of the Connecticut River where it meets Long Island Sound, and it read:

In the spring, when the androgynous shad swim upstream to spawn…

There, in a haughty Connecticut town full of extravagant homes, luxury cars, sumptuous sailboats, and trust-fund kids, not one person had ever reported the fact that shad are anadromous. I fixed the ridiculous blunder and never said a word.

The Awkward Alsatian

Before restaurants started creating their own menus with computers, they were a primary source of work for typesetters. Owners were often difficult to work with, and would insist I set the copy exactly as they had written it. One testy man from Alsace, France, was not a native speaker. His menu read: I welcome you to sample the flavors of my region. This struck me as both distasteful and hilarious, but there it stood.

Saliva Guy

We had to go to Tucson the other day for a doctor’s appointment. We went for breakfast at a family-style chain restaurant called Coco’s, similar to a Denny’s. The waitress was friendly and the service good. We were led to a comfy booth with a big window. The waitress went to get coffee while I took stock of my setting, and that’s when I noticed—we were surrounded by dead flies, debris, grit, and smears of unknown substances all along the top of the booth and the deep inset windowsill. The lovely large window had blinds—brown with crusted dirt and dust and grease. Also within my view was the big glass inner door of the restaurant, opaque from greasy fingers.

Maybe people don’t notice because we’re focused on the tables. But once you’re seated and start to become familiar with your environment, a booth is an intimate view of just how dirty most restaurants are. We ordered while some drama unfolded in the next booth. A man poured maple syrup over his pancakes and stuck his finger in that last drip when you tilt the container back up. He ran his finger around the rim of the syrup pitcher and then licked his finger.

Sitting there among my small dead companions and my feral neighbor, I didn’t really want to touch, use, or eat anything on the table. And what of those big laminated menus?

I’ve become kind of obsessive over the past few years about touching things that a million people have touched. Most people know that grocery carts are the biggest villain, often teeming with the big five: blood, mucus, saliva, urine, and feces. Other miscreants are door handles, pens, the stylus you sign with at the pharmacy or UPS, and purses and backpacks that have been on floors. Most supermarkets have disposable wipes available at their entrances now.

I may come off as OCD or as having some other unhealthy condition (which I do but it’s not this), but it’s a really big deal if I get sick. Like many other independents the recession has created, I don’t get paid if I don’t work. So I take getting sick hard, refusing help of any kind and becoming generally insufferable. All I want is to go to ground like a sick animal. So I’m careful about what I touch, and it’s become second nature.

I don’t live in a sterile environment at all. I live with a big pack of dirty beasts. But somehow all of them put together aren’t as dirty as a guy whose saliva ends up on a condiment jar in a restaurant. A family restaurant can be a savage land.