Monthly Archives: June 2012

True Story

Scene: A Bradenton Circle-K. Cash register.

CCB [indicating ME]: She stuck this [free bag of Doritos coupon] to me.

GAS STATION CASHIER: Oh no. Why did she do that?

CCB: She’s pretty mean sometimes.

GAS STATION CASHIER: I bet you deserved it. But I’m divorced, so that’s what I say, haha.

ME: Haha.

GAS STATION CASHIER: Well. I had to lock him up.

ME: …oh?

GAS STATION CASHIER: Yeah. My face hit is fist too many times.

ME: Oh. Well. …Fuck him then.

GAS STATION CASHIER: Yep.

And then, in our trip out of the parking lot, CCB almost ran over a shirtless guy in a motorized wheelchair.

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Laurel Park Lunch

My nose is misguided and sentimental today. With the dry air,  it says it’s October, walking home from the bus stop. With the plunge from sunshine into air conditioning, it says it’s Abel Elementary, post-recess.


Any time after Easter, weather like this is bitter sweet. It’s not the welcome of sunshiny spring; it’s not the cooling off of approaching Halloween. As soon as I think to savor the warm, dry air, I remember that it’s just a mirage, and oppressive summer is just around the corner.

Still and all, a late-June lunch in Laurel Park is never bad. Thursday is the October of the work week, anyway, and whatever the weather, Friday will be winter.

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Council’s

My love of dive bars is well e-documented. As is my love of burgers. So since our nasty-ass clogged kitchen sink forced us out into the world for dinner, I was happy to cross Council’s off my list of must-visit burger joints.

I first heard about Council’s from a Facebook-generated article we put in our December visitor’s guide a year or so ago. Since then it’s come up in conversation a few times, mostly with Beaucha (who, though he’s quite a few years younger, is basically my Bradenton mentor for all the northerly things I missed in my Sarasota-oriented upbringing).

First impression: Yep, dive.

In fact, it’s so much not about appearances that it almost seems like they’re trying too hard to maintain their dive-bar status–from the oddly blocked off front “window” that half-displays/half-masks the old sign, to the unmaintained black bar and its cluttered backdrop of signs and snapshots and decrepit cash registers, to the double-row of pool tables stretching into the back, lit up like an interrogation room by florescent lights.

Second impression: Awesome. I like it.

Well, except for the collective side-eye we got from the crowd when we walked in, led by the portly, ponytailed bartender. (That guy looks like he might be related to the second-generation Bahi Hut bartender who, last I checked, was slinging drinks at Broadway.) Reminded me of the reception we got when we walked into a considerably more frightening bar in BFE East Jesus, Tennessee, where we met a very nice man whose name I can’t quite remember–Trigger? Buckshot? Jackhammer?

Anyway, no menus–the chalkboard above the fridge lists hamburgers, cheeseburgers, chili, chips and beer prices. I ordered a Bud Light and immediately got a half eye-roll from the bartender. “Bottle?” he jabbed, grinding his teeth in the direction of the taps, which were Budweiser and Budweiser. “Um, yeah, please,” I responded, wanting to add, “I don’t give a shit, I ain’t gonna drink that that hangover gravy draught, even if it is cheaper.”

The bar, the beer, the limited food–it’s all very Hi-Way-esque, which certainly works for us so long as we’re not being viewed as interlopers. We ordered a couple of burgers, and the bartender grabbed some patties out of the fridge directly in front of us and took just one step over. This is when I realized that there was no kitchen “in the back”–just a griddle that looked to be about one-foot-by-two-foot.

Ok, that’s one of those tiny details that just encapsulates the awesome character of a place. That, and the sign over the fridge that says, “We’ve been cooking burgers since McDonald’s was just a farm.”

And I’d believe it. A few minutes later, the bartender plopped our burgers in front of us on the bar, half-wrapped in a napkin–no plates or nuthin’–and in one bite I was reminded of Duffy’s. Prooooobably not quite that good, but I’ll give it “Duffy’s East.” Next time I’ll order two, since I could eat the first one in about three bites out of sheer enthusiasm–juicy, meaty, crispy iceberg, chopped onions and tasty bun. (I asked for no tomatoes, but if you want ’em, they sit fresh in a little row on tiny shelves in the tiny window next to the griddle.)

Yep, we’ll be going there again. I’m sure they’ll love us–once they get to know us.

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Klean Kevin (Still Krazy)

Inspired by 10-hour workdays in ditches, in June, in Florida, Krazy Kevin’s given up the drink. We celebrated his 30 days sober at Hooters on Wednesday with beer and Jager bombs.

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Wherefore, Winter, Water

OK, now my rant against some crimes of context being committed against oft-used (but, apparently, little-understood) quotes from literature.

Sorry for the elementary Shakespeare lesson, here, but apparently it’s necessary: First and foremost, “Wherefore are thou Romeo?” means “WHY are you Romeo?” not “WHERE are you, Romeo?” I’d like to think this is common knowledge at this point, but alas, it’s still used as “where”—usually in car commercial parodies and jokes that aren’t funny.

It’s not tricky Shakespearean code-breaking, either. Shakespeare or no, it’s just what the damn word means.

(Although the worst experience I ever had with this phrase involved someone knowing the meaning but still not getting the point. It was during a community library lecture about subtext in Shakespeare. After a long talk regarding the interpretation of things not said outright, a woman in the audience raised her hand to contribute, obnoxiously, “It’s just like in Romeo and Juliet, when she says, ‘Wherefore art thou Romeo?’ She’s not saying, ‘Where are you, Romeo?’ She’s saying ‘WHY are you Romeo?’” LADY. That’s not SUBTEXT. THAT’S ACTUALLY WHAT THE LINE MEANS. ARGH.)

For clarification, I like the contemporary example, “how come”—as in, “How come that lady so stupid, yo?” It doesn’t mean, “How do you come?” (hee), it, too, means “Why?” (Or, really, “How did she come to be so stupid?”)

(On another side note: Shakespeare is not “Old English.” It’s not even Middle English. People, Shakespeare wrote in modern English. It’s why we can understand him. Old English is a completely different language, and it sounds like this: “Tunwini settæ æfter Torohtrēdæ bēcun æfter bæurnæ: gebiddæs þēr sāulæ.” I say “sounds like” because what it actually looks like is the engraving on the One Ring to Rule Them All.)

Secondly, “Now is the winter of our discontent” IS NOT THE COMPLETE SENTENCE. There’s not even a comma there, just a line break. It’s “Now is the winter of our discontent / made glorious summer by this son of York.” It’s a happy line. Sure, the hunchback asshole’s going to come ruin everything, but still: happy happy.

And along those lines (but straying from Shakespeare), “Water water everywhere” is not a cheerful tagline for a tourism campaign. It’s about people DYING of THIRST in the middle of the OCEAN: “Water, water, every where / nor any drop to drink.Coleridge was not writing for the convention and visitor’s bureau, what with the killing of wildlife and getting stranded at sea and all. I mean, you’re allowed to yank partial quotes, but don’t ignore the context. Every time I see that as a headline, I think about taking a big swig of saltwater.

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Grammatical Pratfall’s [sic]

This didn’t start out as a grammar nerd blog. Instead, I wanted to rant about the misuse of some select literary quotes (i.e. a literary nerd blog), but I’ll get to those later. What happened was, as I tried to think of examples of literary massacres, my mind drifted into grammatical waters.

Now, nobody here needs to hear about your/you’re and they’re/their/there—I mean, I sympathize.  I screw up those common homophones more frequently than I should for being a snot about it (usually in emails to coworkers, who, I assume, then quietly judge me).

And I’m surely not so in need of a grammatical ego boost that I get satisfaction pointing out every single instance of misuse and bad punctuation. (First of all, there are too many; secondly, I just point out the funny ones.) I mean, if people don’t care, they just don’t. But I like what happens when people make a sincere effort to write it right, but they still take a wrong turn somewhere. So close, and yet…

For instance:

Oh Jason Mraz, you’re on my list. First, your rather catchy “I’m Yours” includes (in its album version, at least) the line, “It’s our godforsaken right to be loved.” DUDE. “Godforsaken” is not the word you want there. It’s like saying, “God doesn’t love you…but someone should.” (A live performance on Late Night suggests somebody told him about this—after it was recorded—and he changed the lyric.) But now he’s done it again, and in the damn refrain, too: “I won’t give up on us / Even if the skies get rough.” GOD, MAN, SKIES DON’T GET ROUGH. “Seas,” “winds,” “hockey games”—these things get rough. Take your pick. And get an editor.

We all know that you never, ever make something plural by adding an apostrophe. Never. (We all know that, right?) Still, you see it everywhere, like “We need more cardigan’s” and “You said there’d be slut’s at this party” and “Who gave perm’s to the cat’s?!” But the other day I saw something pluralized with the less-common S-apostrophe—I think it was like, “Take a look at the wonderful ottomans’ we have.” Aw, you were SO CLOSE. You put the S there. All you had to do was walk away.

Along those lines, there seems to be a phobia about pluralizing nouns that end with a non-silent vowel—as though the S is going to corrupt that last syllable if you don’t separate them with an apostrophe. I recently saw, “salads, calzones and pizza’s.” That’s like, “Yes…yes…no, why?!” (Menus are AWESOME for these kinds of oddities, by the way.) You know this pluralization glitch was not a totally conscious decision—nobody’s obsessing over these things unless, say, your job depends on it—so it’s funny that, instinctively, somewhere in the language portion of the brain, there’s a hang-up about post-vocalic pluralization.

I blame potatoes.

 

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Service

So, Tuesday we went to MoE (Michael’s On East, for you uninitiated Sarasotans) for their Savor Sarasota deal.

Fancy stuff gets a bad rap, I think, for being snooty. And there’s a fine line, to be sure: The point to a fancy night out is to embrace the formality, including certain standards for appearance and behavior. On the other hand, if you feel as though you’re not meeting those standards—and other people judge you for it—then it’s no fun, and frankly, that’s really not a fanciness to be admired. And I think that’s where great service sets itself apart from good (or just well-heeled) service.

So at the restaurant, we’re seated by a young hostess. I sit down by the clean, all-white linens, and she hands me a menu; CCB sits down, and she snatches his napkin away before setting down the menu. It just barely caught my attention—I thought for whatever reason she realized she wasn’t supposed to set the menu on the napkin or something.

A little while later, in between courses, CCB wipes his mouth and sets his napkin down—and it’s black. My brain struggles to compute why he has a black napkin when everything else seems to be white. Are there other black napkins I didn’t notice? Is this some uncharacteristic MoE linen oversight? Did he win a drawing?

He catches me staring and notices the napkin discontinuity. “Oooooh,” he says. “That’s what she was doing.”

I’m like, “What? Why did they give you a black napkin?”

“Because I have black pants on,” he says matter-of-factly.

DUDE. I have never seen that before and it Makes. So. Much. Sense.

(OK, I’m sure many of you are well aware of this little linen ceremony, and you’re thinking, Oh PLEASE, of course that’s what it is. How have you never seen that before? Poppycock. And I could get all defensive and start correcting your grammar and reciting the English monarchs in chronological order, but no: I’m secure enough to know that I’m plenty fancy in many other ways, and yes, the napkin thing totally blew my mind.)

So yeah, MoE has that next-level service going on, but here’s the real touchstone: Our waiter was awesome. He was almost excessively friendly, but laid back and jokey. There was not a moment where we felt judged—not when we chose our wine because it was the cheapest; not when I panicked because I couldn’t identify the colorful mesh-wrapped, ribbon-tied mound on my plate of oysters. (It was a lemon; the mesh kept the seeds in. I know, right? So clever!)

And most of all, we didn’t feel judged for going there specifically to have the $25 Savor Sarasota menu, which is a major discount for that restaurant. The menu was right there up front, and the waiter told us about it, too. (It is a shared pet peeve that some restaurants don’t give you Savor Sarasota menu when you sit down, so you have to request it specially—like a penance for your cheapness.)

I mean, it’s not like we’re not trying. The fun of fancy is to try–not to flaunt your flip-flops in “their” snooty faces, but to make an effort to be a part of something different.

So that’s the thing, I think. I mean, I’m a theater-going, hockey-playing, Shakespeare-reciting, sailor-swearing lover of language, and I think there’s no reason flip-flops and foie gras should be mutually exclusive. But I do sometimes like a fancy experience to go with my fancy food, and I know I’m no cotillion all-star, but you can’t learn good wine unless you get to try it, and you won’t know upscale dining unless you get to experience it.

I have a feeling that all real fancy restaurants understand that this kind of comfort–and not condescension–is the goal of their service. But I want to give a shout-out to their awesomeness anyway: Kudos to the servers who give you full points just for trying.

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