Friday, December 21, 2012

Oh that Holiday Feeling

The lights are up, the tree is lit, the presents are wrapped and all is ready. I can hardly wait for that one special day. That’s the day I get to haul all this crap back up to the attic and have my house back to the way it was for another year. Every end table, every nightstand in our home sports some sort of winter scene. It’s getting so a man hasn’t a place to put his eggnog any more. All this merry making makes me crankier than my usual charming self.

Every Christmas we get a real tree and this year was no different. We bought a seven-foot Douglas Porcupine. All I have to do is walk by the stupid thing and I get hit with a handful of needles. It feels like a stapler exploded over our carpet.

And those songs. That endless stream of carols wherever you go. Why don’t they use that on the Taliban? I’m ready to give up every secret I have after spending just a few hours at the mall. The first one they need to change is the “12 Days of Christmas”. I wish a republican produced that record and it would be down to just 3.

 A fifty-something woman was screaming at a salesclerk because they ran out of a toy she needed. You would have thought she lost her civil liberties instead of some lead-filled trinket from China. I’m not sure about Santa, but Meno Pause is coming to town.

My daughter wants a puppy. Great, it’s the gift that keeps on shitting. While I’m sure to get the same thing I got last year, high blood pressure.

And speaking of gifts, I have a question for my Christian friends out there (if I have any left after this). Just what did Mary and Joseph do with all that gold, frankincense, and myrrh? Did they at least get an upgrade out of the stable? No offense, but Jackie Coogan’s parents handled his money better.

I know what you’re thinking, you’re just a Scrooge. I say let’s give that old penny pincher a break. Be honest now, who would rather have as a neighbor, him or the Cratchits?

It’s also the time of year that every old entertainer comes out of mothballs. I guess I could get plastic surgery and try to look younger too, but I find those marks and etchings of a distinguished life endearing and not a liability. People such as Einstein, Gandhi, and Amelia Earhart had interesting and often weathered faces. When did fish lips and skin pulled so tight you would think it’s to keep the contents fresh become appealing? I see Billy Crystal and think, “Whose birthday is it? The balloon arrived.”

And all this talk about a Fiscal Cliff just makes me want to be the first to push a congressman off it. What else should we expect from the Grayish Generation.

Sure I could be thankful for my health and my family’s health. I have a nice roof over my head, food in the refrigerator, and our bills are paid. My children are doing well. My wife loves me. Why just last night she pulled me back from walking into traffic. “Honey,” she said, “be careful. I’m not ready to start dating yet.” And I have great friends too. I even have a nice mother-in-law. But I don’t have a pony, and really what is life without your own pony? Besides, if I didn’t focus on all the negative things I wouldn’t have anything to write about and you’d be terribly bored.

So all that whining and crying is just my way of saying Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all.

PS: I self-published “Sidney” which is now a chapter book and will be available on Amazon starting next week. Now to sit back and wait for all those offers to come piling in. Don’t anybody use the phone. That could be Random House now!

Here’s a card I did for Hedgehog Development in New York. They are helping with the relief after Hurricane Sandy.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Don’t fear the meatloaf

Lucky you. I decided to disperse some of my vast experience on a favorite subject, food, or more precisely, restaurant dining. I am amazed how many people have poor experiences when at most times these can be avoided. Here’s my Top Ten list for eating out in no particular order.

Rule #1 Never order Italian food at a diner.

Meatballs are not made to be larger than a quarter. Stick with an American dish such as hamburgers, toast, or eggs, but never order scramble. What most diners do is scramble dozens ahead of time and then place them in a container until someone orders them, often adding fillers as well. Other egg dishes need to be cracked fresh and you’ll see the yolk and white. Go for the meatloaf special.

Rule #2 Never eat at a national chain.

They are soulless entities that serve prepackaged and most times pre-cooked meals. I don’t know about you but I’m not paying $27.99 for microwave chicken. Family owned establishments live and die on their reputation. They can’t fall back on 150 other locations or mass marketing to help them survive.

Rule #3 Never send food back.

As an ex-member of the cooking community I have seen things…terrible things. That doesn’t mean that you should take whatever is put in front of you. Ask for a substitute dish and they will most likely not charge you for it. If it is really terrible then just leave. Remember, cooking is an art and often imperfect so be a little understanding.

Rule #4 Make it special.

Sometimes ask for something just slightly different than how it is listed on the menu. Your dish will get a little more attention. But don’t overdo it or make it too difficult or you’ll be back to Rule #3. When you do ask, be polite and respectful and accept the possibility of no.

Rule #5 Check the place out first.

Visit the restroom as soon as you enter, even before sitting down. Anything that makes you go ‘ugh’, leave. If there are no windows in the entire restaurant, leave. And if you make a reservation and you still have to wait more than fifteen minutes, leave.

Rule #6 Enjoy the local cuisine.

Ask the locals where they like to eat. I don’t mean the hotel clerk. They’re usually some kid in college that doesn’t know his elbow macaroni from his aspic. Ask a clerk who works in a local shop what they like.

Rule # 7 Order sauce on the side for fried dishes.

Doesn’t matter it its chimichangas or calamari, they get too soggy before you finish them.

Rule # 8 Tip accordingly.

I hate it when my dinner companions automatically leave large or small tips. Too large a tip and it encourages poor service. Too small and it encourages poor service.

Rule #9 Learn to read menus.

When ordering look for the section that takes up the most room, that’s there specialty. I have confidence in a restaurant that posts its menu outside as well.

Rule # 10 Avoid busy restaurants.

There’s an axiom in New York that says never go into an empty restaurant during dinner hours. There is something to be said for that but I have had some great meals in out of the way quiet places and some terrible ones in packed houses. For one thing, crowds usually mean poor service, long waits, and you struggle to hear the dinner conversation. If you want to try a popular spot don’t pick eight P.M. on a Saturday.

None of this should be taken too seriously. If your meal is disappointing remember to take solace in the fact there’ll be another chance to eat in a couple of hours. Please send your comments and your tips. Mangia!