Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ever been to Cleveland and seen both of its buildings?

A hilarious "tourism" video for Cleveland -- a classic! The guy who posted it writes: "The Cleveland Tourism Board gave me 14 million dollars about 8 months ago to make a promotional video to bring people to Cleveland. As usual, I waited till the last minute and I ended up having to shoot and edit it in about an hour yesterday afternoon. I probably should have invested more time."

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Attention waiters and waitresses of the world: I've got a tip for you...

So what's up with customer service these days, specifically in the restaurant industry? I realize that as a single diner who's ordering his dinner at the bar, I'm not going to be your cash cow for the evening. But that's no reason to provide second-rate service. If the meal is good and you make sitting in your establishment a pleasant experience, trust me: I'll take care of you -- I am a pretty generous tipper. But if you treat me like I'm a burden - like my waitress at a Louisville steak house the other night who wouldn't make eye contact with me, served my salad without a fork and knife, and then took five minutes to bring utensils to me - it's going to be your loss.

So all I ask is for a genuine smile, some eye contact, and maybe a "Hey, is everything OK?" or "Is there anything else I can get you?"

A quick story: I was at the Las Vegas airport last month, and had about 45 minutes before I had to be at the gate for my flight to Boston. I went to California Pizza Kitchen, where I grabbed a spot at the bar and ordered a small pizza and a beer. Fifteen minutes later, I asked the waitress how much longer it would be before I got my lunch. "You never ordered a pizza," she said dismissively. When I told her that I did, indeed, ask for a pizza - from her - she said, "Well, I don't have any record of that order." Period. Not, "I'm sorry, can I put in another order for you?" or "Sorry for the mix-up, can I get you a beer on the house?" or "Sorry about that. What can I do to make this right?" So in the end, a $4.50 beer + a zero percent tip = $4.50.

If you get really bad service in a restaurant, do you still tip? 

Callous or cautious?

So I'm walking back to my hotel in Louisville from dinner the other night and it's well after 10:00 pm. It's a walk of seven blocks, and the first four are well lit and feel pretty safe. It's the last three blocks where I square my shoulders and walk with purpose, as the street turns dark and there's a not-so-friendly vibe.

I cross an intersection and on the corner ahead of me, there's a bus stop with a bench. As I get closer, I see a man and woman - probably in their mid-thirties - with three children: a blond-headed boy about six years old, and two smaller children in strollers. The man is walking back to the bench, just having had his request for money from a guy walking his dog turned down. As I walk by, the woman and I make eye contact. Her shirt is dirty and she's missing a front tooth. "Excuse me sir," she says, "Can I have a dollar so I can get my kids home to bed?" Without a pause, I answer. "Sorry, I can't help you", and I pick up my pace a bit, back to the air-conditioned comfort and safety of The Brown Hotel lobby.

Part of me feels guilty and I keep thinking about that couple and especially those kids. But if they truly needed a dollar for bus fare, why are they hanging out on this darkly dangerous section of the city, when there's a vibrant downtown area, full of people, just two blocks away? Am I naive to think that there must be a place in this city - a shelter, a police station, somewhere - where this young family could get help, even at this late hour? Were they really trying to get the kids home, or was this some kind of scam? And if it's a scam, my heart breaks even more: what kind of life do these kids have?

On that dark street, it didn't seem like a good idea to pull my wallet out of my back pocket.  And I've heard that if you really want to help people out, make a donation to a local shelter, and don't hand out money to folks on the street. So, did I do the right thing by walking by and ignoring the woman's request for money or was I being callous and overly-cautious? What would you have done?

There were ponies on my bed

On my business trip to Louisville, I stayed at The Brown Hotel, an old-style grand hotel on Broadway. High ceilings, marble fixtures, rich carpeting, and a sense that lots of deals have been brokered over stiff drinks and cigars at the lobby bar. And naturally, this being horse country and home to the Kentucky Derby each May, there were ponies on my bed.

I'm taking the Fifth

I just returned from a business trip to Louisville, Kentucky. Check out the name of this bank in the city's downtown. To confuse matters more, the bank is located on Fourth Street. 

It may be Second to none, but my Sixth sense tells me that the Third Fifth Bank would not be my First choice of financial institutions. But if they offered free checking, I'd be in Seventh heaven!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

History in our own backyard

On Sunday, we took a long-overdue visit to the Adams National Historical Park in Quincy, MA. It’s just a few miles south of Boston and is the birthplace of two American presidents, John Adams (who was our nation’s first vice president, under George Washington, and later elected as our young country’s second president), and his son, John Quincy Adams, who was our sixth president.

The two-hour tour included a trolley ride to the saltbox homes where each of the men were born, as well as a tour of “Peacefield”, the mansion that John and Abigail Adams purchased following their extended stay in Europe where John served as an ambassador to Great Britain and the Netherlands. The home, which was purchased by the Adams’ in 1788, was home to four generations of the family until it was sold in 1927. Also on the tour was The Stone Library, a brick structure built next to the main house that was designed to keep the family’s vast library safe from fire.

It was fun to tour these historic properties and to walk in the shoes of two great American leaders. No photography is allowed inside the properties, but hopefully these snapshots will give you a sense of what we saw today.

The homestead of our second president John Adams. This is where John and his wife Abigail started their family and where John started his law practice.

The second home on the property, birthplace of John Quincy Adams.

John and Abigail Adams moved into "The Old House" in 1788 following their return from Europe. The house has quadrupled in size since it was purchased by the soon-to-be second president of the United States.

The Stone Library houses more than 14,000 books that belonged to the Adams' family.

The grounds of "The Old House" in Quincy, MA.

A rare, autographed photo of the Addams family.

A waste of good spaghetti and meatballs

The woman who heads up the “rats sub-committee” (I’m not making that up) reports in a recent issue of Boston’s North End/Waterfront neighborhood association’s newsletter, on the latest efforts to drive vermin out of town.

“Because 40% of the North End is on man-made land, there is a large matrix of burrows that exist underground. She recommends property owners clean with pinesol or sulfanaptha (available at Green Cross Pharmacy). Dog waste that is not picked up also attracts rats. She advises residents not to feed the birds. A consistent issue is the ‘trash-pickers’ that open garbage bags during the night. Lastly, she noted a situation on Charter St. where cooked spaghetti and meatballs were being thrown out the window onto the street.”

As opposed to “raw spaghetti and meatballs”? Is someone on Charter Street intentionally feeding the rats traditional Italian cuisine? Was there a family argument that culminated in food-throwing? Did a disgruntled restaurant diner throw his meal onto the street? I think this situation warrants further investigation. Oh Jessica Fletcher, where are you when we need you?

And hey -- speaking of Boston's North End, remember this classic commercial for Prince Spaghetti?

A sweet afternoon in Marblehead

We visited our friends Jo Ann and Doug in Marblehead, MA, on Saturday and were treated to a late afternoon ride on their new boat. Marblehead Harbor was filled with beautiful boats, as there had been a sailboat race earlier in the day. We enjoyed the company of good friends, some delicious food, and frosty cocktails. Once out of harbor, the seas were flat, so Doug opened up the engines and we flew across the water to Salem. It was Otis’ first time on a speedboat, and he seemed to relish being on the water and taking in all of the sights and smells. Upon returning to port, Doug and Jo Ann took us out to great dinner, and we finished the night back at their home with cupcakes from Sweet, a new bakery in Boston’s Back Bay. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Whoops – there goes your bagel!

A scientist at the University of Colorado School of Medicine says that the “five-second rule” (or “three-second rule”, depending on where you grew up)  -- where food is considered save to eat if it’s only been on the floor for five (or three) seconds – may be an OK guideline. But according to a report on the Lifehacker website, Dr. Harley Rotbart, a professor of microbiology and pediatric infectious diseases, says it’s more about where you drop the food, as opposed to how long it sits on the ground.

The doctor says that if you drop your bagel on a city sidewalk, it’s probably OK to brush it off and eat it, since the pavement is cleaner than most kitchen floors. But if you're at home, and your bagel slips through your buttery fingers and ends up on the kitchen floor, Dr. Rotbart says the “zero-second rule” should apply “because the bacteria from uncooked meat and chicken juices are more hazardous than the ‘soil’ bacteria outside.”

Has Dr. Rotbart ever been to a city? I love my hometown of Boston, but between the dirt, debris, unknown chemicals, and copious amounts of dog pee, my rule is dropped food = discarded food.

And although I’m no Mr. Clean, I tend not to let meat or chicken juices fester on my kitchen floor. So I’d feel pretty good about grabbing that dropped bagel and putting it back on my plate. (Unless I had a friend over for breakfast, when I would, OF COURSE, throw the bagel away and make a new one – unless they didn’t see me drop it!)

So what’s your rule about picking up food you’ve dropped on the floor? Just pick it up and eat it? Throw it in the trash? Or does it all depend on how long it’s been on the ground?

Footnote: Dr. Rotbart says your bathroom floor is another “zero-second rule” zone. I’m afraid to ask this, but have you ever heard of anyone eating in the bathroom?

Growing up before our eyes

I wish I knew more about this video – or could even remember where I first saw it. But in any case, you should watch it. It’s a time-lapse slideshow of a baby girl, soon joined by her baby sister, as they grow from infants, through the toddler stage, into children, and end up as young adults. It’s an amazing piece of work, and while I don’t have kids, I can imagine what a treasure this collection of photographs is for the girls’ family. If anyone knows who produced this, and who the girls are, I'd love to give them credit!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A summer storm rolls in over Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown

Music for a hot summer evening

We were driving home from Provincetown, after a wonderful birthday celebration for our friend George, during last night’s lightning storm. It was steamy and sultry night and every few minutes, the sky ahead of us would light up with forks of electricity. We were listening to a music mix that I put together following our trip to Spain last April – slow and moody - perfect for a hot summer evening.

One of the tracks was “Falling Slowly” from the 2006 film “Once”. It tells the story of a Dublin street musician and a young Czech immigrant who flirt, collaborate, and struggle with personal relationships over the course of a week. The actors – Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova – composed and performed all of the original songs in the film. The movie is bittersweet, beautifully gritty, and “real”.

The scene that features “Falling Slowly” is my favorite. It takes place in a music store where the young woman (neither of the characters have names in the movie) learns one of the musician’s songs. That particular clip is not available on YouTube, but I found this wonderful performance from The Late Show with David Letterman. The song earned Hansard and Irglova an Oscar for “Best Original Song” and was truly deserved.

Let me know what you think of the clip below and whether or not you’ve seen the movie. Obviously, I’m recommending it highly.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Can someone explain Judge Judy to me?

I saw a news report yesterday that Judy Sheindlin, star of the daytime small claims court reality show “Judge Judy”, has just signed a contract for the next season of her program that’s worth $45 million. And to top it off, the report says she works just 52 days a year, taping multiple episodes of her program each day. I’m no math genius, but that means Judge Judy earns more than $800,000 each day she shows up at the studio.

And putting aside for the moment the obscene amount of money she’s pulling down (and I know she’s not the only one - lots of corporate bigwigs, sports stars, and entertainers make that much and more), I’m trying to understand the allure of her TV show. It’s often on one of the big TV monitors at the gym while I’m on the treadmill. Isn’t it pretty much just Jerry Springer’s show set in a courtroom? And who are these dopey folks who sign up to be on her show and get berated in front of some 6.6 million viewers?

Judy Sheindlin is probably a very nice person “in real life” and who knows; maybe I’m just jealous of someone who can pull down nearly a million bucks a day. But am I missing something here? What makes Judge Judy so popular?

Friday, July 16, 2010

It was dark that night. And stormy, too.

Every year, I look forward to the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. You've never heard of it? It's a competition for writers who are challenged to compose the worst imaginable first line of a novel. (The contest is named after Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, whose 1830 novel "Paul Clifford" began with the iconic sentence, "It was a dark and stormy night.")

The winner of this year's contest was Molly Ringle of Seattle. She wrote: "For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity's affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss - a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity's mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he was the world's thirstiest gerbil."

My friend Julie and I have taken this contest's concept one step further. We create "tandem stories", where one of us will write the first paragraph of a short story, and then hand it off to the other person. We keep writing paragraphs and handing it back and forth, and the fun is twisting the story in directions the other person wasn't expecting and seeing what they do with it.

Here's a tandem story from the "vaults" -- started almost 10 years ago. We didn't get very far. Does anyone want to jump in and write the next paragraph? Feel free to do so in the "comments" section. Let's see where Elliot, Martha, and Jeff end up!

In a Pickle
Elliot and Martha Rothchild were in a pickle. And later, in separate interrogation rooms at the Adamsville Hamlet police station, they would blame each other for their embarrassing predicament. It had begun hours earlier, when the duo pulled their RV into the parking lot of “Lefty’s Kwik Mart.” Elliot and Martha quickly picked up the provisions they needed and made their way to the checkout. “That’ll be $12.89, folks,” burped the cashier as she wrapped the remains of her salami hero in a piece of greasy wax paper and tossed it into the overflowing bin under the counter. “Oh darn,” said Elliot, turning and giving a knowing wink to his wife. “My wallet’s in the truck. Would you be a lamb and go fetch it?” Martha nodded and made her way to the parking lot. When she returned, she carried a small package wrapped in brown paper and placed it gently on the counter.

Martha’s hand had shaken badly when she set the package down and she fixed her eyes to the grimy linoleum for what seemed like hours.  When she finally looked at Elliot, she noticed deep red splotches spreading along the loose chicken-skin of his neck.  Beads of sweat began to collect on his forehead and glisten within the reddish bristles of his quivering mustache.  She seemed to see him for the very first time.  “What a repugnant little man,” she said out loud, surprising everyone.  The package lay there on the counter, untouched by all three.  Elliot stared, dumbfounded, at Martha, the one person he thought he could count on no matter what.  Martha stared, disgusted, at Elliot, wondering how in the world she had ever had sex with him.  The cashier stared at the package, then at Martha, then at Elliot.  Finally, she poked the package with a greasy fingertip and said, “That don’t look like no wallet to me.”

Jeff Grandacre carefully backed his Yugo into the handicapped parking space in front of Lefty’s Kwik Mart. His parents had surprised him with the Yugo, complete with a hitch for the trailer for his motorized wheelchair, for his birthday luau just last week. Since then, Jeff had put nearly 800 miles on the tiny car, shuttling his friends back and forth to school, the local shopping mall, and racing from one end of the Adamsville Hamlet Scotty H. Icarus Tramway to the other. Jeff cut the motor, grabbed his 96-ounce coffee mug (“49 cent refills with every $10.00 purchase!”), and slowly limped around the Rothchild’s RV to the entrance of Lefty’s. As soon as he entered the store, Jeff knew something was amiss – in fact, he could smell trouble in the air. Suddenly, a burst of commotion erupted at the cash register. “Help!” screamed the tubby cashier. “Help me, please!”

OK, it's your turn! Please continue the story in the "Comments" section.

Gotta get me one of these

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Not real, but funny!

OK - I don't believe this exchange between an office secretary and an art designer actually happened. But I ran across this today and laughed out loud, so I figured it was blog-worthy. So without further ado, read on for "Clueless Secretary Prompts Hilarious Office Email Thread"

THE BACK STORY: Shannon (the secretary) has lost her cat and has asked David (the graphic designer) to help with a lost poster. This is their email correspondence...

From: Shannon Walkley

Date: Monday 21 June 2010 

To: David Thorne

Subject: Poster

Hi. I opened the screen door yesterday and my cat got out and has been missing since then so I was wondering if you are not to busy you could make a poster for me. It has to be A4 and I will photocopy it and put it around my suburb this afternoon. This is the only photo of her I have she answers to the name Missy and is black and white and about 8 months old. missing on Harper street and my phone number.Thanks Shan.

From:David Thorne

Date: Monday 21 June 2010 
To: Shannon Walkley

Subject: Re: Poster

Dear Shannon,
That is shocking news.
Although I have two clients expecting completed work this afternoon, I will, of course, drop everything and do whatever it takes to facilitate the speedy return of Missy.
Regards, David.

From: Shannon Walkley

Date: Monday 21 June 2010 

To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Poster

yeah ok thanks. I know you dont like cats but I am really worried about mine. I have to leave at 1pm today.

From: David Thorne

Date: Monday 21 June 2010 10.17am

To: Shannon Walkley

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Poster

Dear Shannon,
I never said I don't like cats. Attached poster as requested.
Regards, David.

From: Shannon Walkley

Date: Monday 21 June 2010

To: David Thorne

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

yeah thats not what I was looking for at all. it looks like a movie and how come the photo of Missy is so small?

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010

To: Shannon Walkley

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

Dear Shannon,
It's a design thing. The cat is lost in the negative space.
Regards, David.

From: Shannon Walkley

Date: Monday 21 June 2010 

To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

Thats just stupid. Can you do it properly please? I am extremely emotional over this and was up all night in tears. you seem to think it is funny. Can you make the photo bigger please and fix the text and do it in colour please. Thanks.

Read the rest of the exchange.

Monday, July 12, 2010

I knew I liked you, Provincetown...

It's official - Provincetown, Massachusetts, is the most dog-friendly city in the United States. That's according to Dog Fancy magazine, which says Ptown came out on top of 40 other cities because of its dog-friendly open spaces, "events celebrating dogs and their owners, ample veterinary care, abundant pet supply and other services, and municipal laws that support and protect all pets."

Dog Fancy editor Ernie Slone said: "All dog owners know of a few local shops or restaurants that allow dogs, but it is remarkable to have an entire town where virtually every establishment opens its doors to dogs - even the bank. Where else can you take your dog along for a whale-watching or sunset cruise, walk miles of off-leash scenic beaches year-round, and enjoy one of the nation's finest dog parks?"

Where else, indeed.

Ptown is great fun in the summertime, but it's really special off-season. A few years ago, we visited for a long weekend during the depths of a February cold spell. The wind was whipping and the icy snow was pelting our faces as we wandered down nearly empty Commercial Street. Before ducking into the A-House for a break from the cold (and a beer), we asked the bartender if we could bring in Otis. "Hell yes!" was his answer. Our dog took over the place, enjoying all the attention from the crowd, warming himself in front of the wood-burning fireplace, and taking advantage of the barkeep's good nature and box of biscuits stashed behind the bar.

Congratulations Ptown...see you next month!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Try this: Curry Turkey Burgers

Here’s a great summertime meal from Rachael Ray. Really easy and delicious.  
  • 1 1/3 pounds ground turkey (the average weight of 1 package in the supermarket) 
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • A handful of cilantro chopped very fine (about 2 tablespoons) 
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated or minced 
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced 
  • ½ red bell pepper, finely chopped 
  • coarse salt 
  • 1 tablespoon (or more) of curry powder 
  • Olive oil 
  • Rolls 
  • Mango chutney (we use Major Grey brand because it was available at the local supermarket)

Combine first eight ingredients and form into five patties. Drizzle with olive oil and grill (or pan fry) six minutes on each side. Serve on rolls with chutney, lettuce, and onion.

The summer that Supertramp helped me be a little bit hip

I read a newspaper article recently that asked folks: “What was your favorite album when you were 16?” No question about that one for me.

It was the summer of 1979 and I was working for my hometown’s summer recreation department. I was stationed in the program’s arts and crafts room, where every day for six weeks, groups of kids ranging in age from 5 to 11 would gather to braid boondoggle, weave potholders, and fashion log cabins out of popsicle sticks and copious amounts of Elmer’s glue.

Joining me on the arts and craft staff were two “older” girls, 17-year-old Lori and Sandy. These two were a riot, always laughing and making our long days cooped up in one of the airless rooms at the local elementary schools more bearable. Both Lori and Sandy also loved "Breakfast in America" by Supertramp, the big hit album of the summer, and they played it endlessly on the record player in our room. Day in and day out for those six weeks, we were serenaded by “The Logical Song”, “Goodbye Stranger”, and “Take the Long Way Home”, and I memorized every word of each track on that album.

And because Lori and Sandy were a year older than me and were among the “popular girls” in school, our shared loved of Supertramp created a bond between us that never would have happened during the regular school year. We got to know each other that summer, and talking, laughing, and appreciating together “Breakfast in America” made me feel a little more accepted and “hip”. So even with my bowl haircut, those thick glasses, and wide wale corduroy tunic with the black polyester turtleneck, I felt a little bit “cool” that summer of 1979, thanks to Supertramp and my friends Lori and Sandy.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Summer in Southie

Here in South Boston, we don't need to go to those fancy, expensive florists that line the streets of Back Bay and South End. We just go to the local park and pick the stuff that grows wild.

Rebel without a clue

Friday, July 9, 2010

A little Linsdsey, mad Mel, and some animals that want to kill you

Some random thoughts for the weekend:

Sounds unbelievable, but 2.3 million people watched the live broadcast of Lindsey Lohan's court appearance this past Tuesday on the TMZ website. (Compare that to the "just" 683,000 folks who followed the site's live broadcast of Tiger Woods' press conference.) Lohan's hearing, of course, ended in her being sentenced to a 90-day jail stint, and featured her now-famous "manicure with a message".

Lindsey thinks she's having a rough week? Mel Gibson has now been named as a potential suspect in a domestic violence investigation involving his ex-girlfriend. Two words for Mel: buh-bye.

Remember the BP oil spill? Yes, the underwater rig is still gushing an estimated 35,000 to 60,000 barrels of oil a day. Comedian Andy Borowitz reports: "At a time when many thought that news out of the Gulf of Mexico couldn’t get any worse, BP announced today that the oil in the Gulf needs to be changed every six months. “The oil will need to be changed every six months or every 15,000 lies,” said the BP spokesman. “Whatever comes sooner.”

So what will it be? Electrocution? Constriction? Or starvation? Here's a (not meal-time friendly) list of ten truly awful ways to be killed by an animal.

This product sounds like it might solve the problem of rooting around in the cabinets to find the correct lids to our self-propagating collection of Tupperware. Clear, silicone stretch lids in four sizes that seal anything in a mug, bowl, plate, or dish. The lids are re-usable and OK to use in the freezer and microwave. See ya later, Saran Wrap! Makes a great "Thinking of You" gift for your favorite blogger.

And finally, here's a recipe for homemade "Thin Mints".  I used to buy at least four boxes of these delicious slices of chocolate and mint perfection from a lady in my office who was shelling for her Girl Scout daughter. But the folks at say these are easy to make at home and taste even better than the "real thing". I'll let you know how I make out.

Next up in Friday Funnies...

From one of my favorite websites: Awkward Family Photos

"Nothing could stand in the way of their love...not even a French door."

"Authentic all the way down to the rock holding the door shut."

Monday, July 5, 2010

Our Fourth of July in Boston

We took Otis over to the Old State House in downtown Boston for a reading of the Declaration of Independence.

Many folks were in costume outside the Old State House.

The ornate top of the Old State House.

We walked through Boston Common and got this shot of the current State House atop Beacon Hill.

A singing group from Wisconsin was performing patriotic songs near Downtown Crossing.

We then drove out to Ashland State Park, about 40 minutes southwest of Boston, for a leisurely walk around this beautiful lake. 

We forgot to bring a tennis ball, but being very resourceful, Otis found another dog's discarded ball near the  water...and it was game on!

On the way back into Boston, we saw that the Queen Mary 2 had docked at the Black Falcon Terminal in South Boston. When built in 2003, the Queen Mary 2 was the longest, widest, and tallest passenger ship ever built. It can accommodate 2,620 passengers and houses the only planetarium at sea.

A truly sensational sunset over the city skyline.

Around 9:30, we walked over to Castle Island, where hundreds of people were milling about, enjoying the balmy holiday evening. The constant popping and booming of firecrackers was too much for Otis to handle, so we stayed only a few minutes before heading home.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...