Archive for May, 2011

Standup at the Chamber Breakfast

May 31, 2011

I can’t believe I’m writing about an event that happened more than a week ago and doing it from memory because I didn’t take any notes as I did not anticipate that it would take this long.

Larry and I arrived at the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce breakfast at about 7:15 a.m. and found most of the 600 people already in attendance. I’m not much for breakfast before 10 a.m. so I cranked another cup of coffee and nibbled on half a bagel as we visited with Larry’s uncle and the other folks at our table.

The event started late, a rarity when Chamber President Larry McHugh is in charge, but by 8 a.m. he announced that Coach Auriemma and Role Model of the Year Tina Charles were in the house. As the Husky music played, they walked right past me. He looked really short next to the six foot four inch Charles.

After the opening formalities and a brief business meeting, Geno took the stage and dissed everyone in sight. He said Tina Charles stalked him when he went to scout her at her high school. He refused to thank Larry McHugh – saying Coach Calhoun gets invited to the chamber breakfast every year but it took Teresa Opalacz, in her position as chairwoman of the board, to extend an invitation to him. He’d received the keys to the city of Middletown and asked, “Do you think with all those Italians there it’ll actually work?” He even cut down the event’s sponsor St. Francis Hospital. The president, who performed the introduction, mentioned that St. Francis performed more open heart surgery than bigger hospitals. Geno said that was because Connecticut was full of old people and stressed out people.

We were all thrilled when Tina Charles took over. Looking directly at Geno, she said, “Well, the first thing I have to do is raise the microphone.”

One of the terrific things that I picked up from this event: The UConn women who’ve played basketball have all graduated, many of them with honors. This in contrast to the NCAA champion men’s team, which is losing two scholarships for “academic under performance,” meaning that a good chunk of the team didn’t pass their courses. And I seem to remember that only about one-fifth graduate, not surprising with the lure of the NBA.

We had a busy weekend – as I mentioned on Facebook and Twitter, Larry was in the newspaper twice on Saturday and on all three network news shows on Monday in Memorial Day related events. And as I write this he’s taping a show for the local access cable channel, which we unfortunately won’t be able to see.

He spent Friday putting flags on graves up at the Veterans cemetery and participating at a dedication at the high school. Saturday he went to a fund raising breakfast. On Sunday he caught a break and we went to the celebration of Cypress Grill’s seventy-fifth anniversary. Lots of people have posted and written about it, so I won’t add any more.

Then Monday, he had a ceremony at the Vietnam memorial; the parade, which was partially washed out but covered well by the Middletown Eye, then a ceremony at the Veterans Cemetery, then a reception, then a wake.

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Sushi Friday XI

May 28, 2011

Sakimura

496 South Broad Street

Meriden, CT

203-237-8888

I’m filing Sushi Friday on Saturday because I don’t want to put myself any further behind. Also, I needed to do a makeup entry.

I thought I knew where Sakimura was because I used to go to the shopping center on my lunch break from the Meriden Record-Journal every couple of weeks to visit Hit or Miss, Pier 1 Imports, and the Chinese restaurant. These visits somewhat made up for eating at my desk on the other nine days. When I went to look for Sakimura just after the blizzard of 2011, I couldn’t see anything because of the piles of snow between the lanes in the parking lot. I parked at the edge and made it to the sidewalk without getting run over, walked the length of the mall, past Marhall’s, Sleepy’s, Chucky Cheese’s, Old Navy, Burlington Coat Factory, and a bunch of little gaming places. The mall had clearly deteriorated since my regular visits. I saw no restaurant except Chucky. Then I noticed a Starbucks across the street, where I realized there was an annex to the shopping center. And I spotted Sakimura.

It took forever to maneuver out of the lot and across the street. (This is not an area where a pedestrian can safely cross the street.) I wound my way around the line at the Starbucks driveup and finally arrived at the restaurant. Not an auspicious beginning.

What I like: Parking was easy once I found the place. No TV. No smell from the hibachi room. Friendly host. Excellent miso, strong but not salty broth, lots of seaweed, right amount of tofu and scallions. Green leaf lettuce included in the salad. Generous ten pieces of sashimi, two each of escolar, snapper, yellowtail, tuna. and salmon. Small portions of miso and rice, so I don’t leave as much behind.

What I don’t like: It’s just too far away for regular visits. Music was some kind of techno-house stuff.  Too much noise from the hibachi room – knives, yelling, etc. Way too much dressing on the salad, which had one anemic slice of tomato and a couple of big slices of cucumber. The sashimi slices were thick and therefore lacked maximum flavor.  The waitress did not wait for me to put my chopsticks down before she took my plate. The entire wait staff was eating when I left so I guess I cut into her dining time.

Grade: B

St. Luke’s Fundraiser

May 28, 2011

A quick note. The number of people who can correctly identify Reuters is 1) truly depressing; 2) not surprising; 3) worrisome for future knowledge.

I can’t believe it’s more than a week since we left Newport in the fog (the only time we really saw any). It reminded me of a terrifying drive I made years ago early in the morning from New Iberia to New Orleans to catch a plane. Couldn’t see left or right, and the only indicator that I was still on the road was the red glow of the sun dead in my eyes. On the voyage back from Newport the fog lifted right after we crossed the second bridge, and we were to be able to see beyond the shoulder of the road. We stopped again at the diner in Mystic for breakfast. Larry once again had his standard fare, served with enough bacon to feed three. I had a breakfast burrito sans meat and took half of it to go.

We arrived home with plenty of time to lavish all sorts of attention on Isis who was needless to say furious that both her humans had abandoned her for three whole days. Then we showered and changed into fancy togs to attend a fundraiser for St. Luke’s Eldercare Services. I thought I had mentioned before that Larry is on the board of this wonderful organization but apparently not. Anyway, St. Luke’s, which has been around since 1865, provides free services to veterans and senior citizens in northern Middlesex County. Among the benefits is free transportation to the VA hospital in West Haven. A round-trip taxi ride from Middletown costs $110, which is obviously beyond the means of a great many veterans, especially those who have multiple appointments. The website has a description of everything the agency does with a tiny staff and a small army of volunteers. Those in the know call it the best kept secret in the area.

The fourth annual Fashionable Event was every bit that. Held at the Marriott in Rocky Hill, the full sized banquet hall was full – the food and beverages spread out into the hallway and into a second room. I ran into any number of folks that I’ve met through the community foundation and other organizations and was surprised to see two of my neighbors.  The goodie bags at our places contained some terrific loot from the sponsors including a “flexi-vase” from Four Seasons Federal Credit Union that starts out as flat plastic and expands into a vase that can hold a full bouquet of flowers and then collapses for easy storage, an emergency bandage from Middlesex Hospital, a “magic” jar opener from the cleaning company Servpro,  key rings from Liberty Bank and  Servpro.

There was a silent auction and a public auction that included a trip to Florida and a safari to Africa. WFSB’s Scott Haney acted as the MC. He’s outrageous – irreverent, hysterically funny. The auction featured couples dressed in fashions from a local designer (women) and discount clothier (men). Each couple promoted an auction item – and Scott raised some serious money. While flirting with everyone, especially the men, he doubled down on the safari by selling two of them, and having previous winners testify that it was the trip of a lifetime. I believe they went for just under $4,000 each, a real bargain. The fashions ranged from practical – stuff I would actually wear – to totally fanciful, i.e., five inch stilettos and pants that only look good on size 000.

As part of the auction anyone in the audience could ask him any question about his personal life for a $10 donation. He mentioned that he and his partner have three cats – adding, “If you have four or more, you’re a lesbian!”

We had a terrific time, but did not linger at the end because we had to be up and out of the house by 7 a.m. Friday to have breakfast with Geno.

Since I’ve got so much to cover and missed a segment yesterday, look for a rare weekend post.

Quick Hit

May 27, 2011

Today’s entry was supposed to be about a real fundraiser, but I spent far too many hours today at a function where the beneficiaries did not appreciate what people did for them. I need to  cool down and post a real entry tomorrow.

May 26, 2011

Newport Day 3

Late tonight because I attended a fabulous benefit concert. Details on that will follow all the other items that have accumulated since last week. And thanks to everyone who said great stuff about the Ann Petry Fan Page.

Here’s our third day in Newport. After some coffee and a muffin from the hotel we walked up a couple of blocks to Annie’s. On the way down, the elevator stopped on the second floor and a woman sort of hesitated. I asked if she was getting on – she didn’t answer, was talking to someone over her shoulder. Finally she entered. Then a little girl appeared. The woman was leaning against the back of the elevator, and the little girl was sort of hovering. I asked the girl if she was coming with us and held the door so it wouldn’t close. She finally entered, too, and hid behind the woman. Larry was standing nearest the two of them and after we got off he said, “Oh, my God, she was so drunk!” It was 10 a.m.

We left the woman weaving back and forth on the sidewalk and walked up the hill. Annie’s was delightful. We thought the hostess and waitresses might be Latinas, but a look at the menu featuring Portuguese potato kale soup made us realize that they were from Portugal or one of its former colonies. It was too early for lunch, but our breakfast selections were terrific: Larry had two eggs, bacon, home fries, and toast. I had a broccoli and Swiss omelet, toast, and home fries. Neither of us finished our food.

We came back to the hotel and I went for a longer walk up Thames Street past the other breakfast option, Ocean Breeze Café, which was much farther than Annie’s. Then I turned up Upton Street (I think) and walked past The Elms, which was apparently threatened with demolition but rescued. The information made me think of the area where Jackie Kennedy helped with the renewal, which allowed the low-income residents to move back into their homes. Not sure where that was, but I’ll be the poor folks are long gone.

I walked down Bellevue, past Stop & Shop and CVS, which turned out was right across the street from Annie’s. Then back down Memorial Boulevard to America’s Cup Boulevard to Farewell Street (I think) where I encountered J. Crew, Banana Republic, and two sets of people who asked me for directions because they thought I was a local. On the way back to the hotel, I passed a store called Tourist Trap. They don’t hide their stuff around here!

After I returned Larry and I sat out on the balcony at the end of the hall hoping someone would clean the room. We saw working boats and tourist taxis or excursion boats that passed each other on the opposite side of the harbor. We also watched a huge white tent next to the hotel where people began gathering around noon. We finally ascertained that the banner said Ocean Tech Expo. And the ProJo, which I found at Starbucks in the afternoon, said it was a conference for marine types. The governor was planning to attend and a band played from about four to eight or nine.

In the p.m. I read more of my Times mags and we tried to take another walk but it started to rain. I returned to Starbucks for tea. Lunch consisted of an orange and a muffin from the hotel breakfast because I was saving room for dinner.

Dinner at the Clarke Cook House lived up to its previous level. We did not sit out over the water this time, which was fine since the weather wasn’t conducive to outdoor dining. This time we looked down on the little alley next to the place. I started with a truly disappointing Caesar salad, made more so by the lack of a knife to cut the few larger green pieces of lettuce. Profuse apologies followed but did not compensate for the watery tasting dressing and mostly yellowed interior bits of lettuce. Larry said his shrimp cocktail was excellent, though it still didn’t measure up to the mega shrimp at Max Fish (“Blue Points Rock” and previous entries). We observed the next table and realized our waiter had neglected to describe the two specials – King salmon for $34 and rack of lamb for $33. We weren’t planning to order either. Nor did he mention the bottle of wine for $3,295.

Larry wound up with sirloin tips, and I had filet of salmon with fennel, etc. Entrées were definitely up to previous standards. This time we skipped desserts.

Newport, Day 2

May 25, 2011

Quick item: I’ve created an Ann Petry Fan Page on Facebook. Check it out!

To return to Newport. We stopped at Espresso Yourself (cute, cute, no web site) for a small breakfast then I mooched around and cleaned out many, many Hotmail files. Should have done the same with Yahoo! but didn’t. Also listened to all of “Morning Edition” on line, caught up with back issues of NYTimes except for Style and the Book Review.

We lunched (the proper term in this case) at Christie’s, a chic place directly out the back door and across the alley from the hotel. It, too has a history, except the waitress didn’t know what it was and had to go find out the identities of the 1950s bathing beauties in the big blow-up photo on the wall next to our table. One had a rock on her third finger the size of the Hope diamond and another looked like she was missing a tooth, but all were fully coiffed and made up. We learned one of them was named Christie but that’s all. I had tuna sashimi on pita bread with some rather sloppy pesto such under it. The promised arugula turned out to be baby spinach, but the whole thing tasted OK. Larry had fish and chips with Asian slaw. The fish was OK, though he announced that he doesn’t like cod fried, and did not eat the slaw, which had a great deal of sesame oil and some other unidentified spice. The $10 for a glass of pinot grigio was ridiculous – no wines were listed on the menu and had I known I would have stuck to water.

After we ate we walked down Bannister’s Wharf to the Black Dog. The place is an extension of the original Cape Cod venue but without the food. I didn’t realize until I went on the website that the place has nineteen locations, all in some of the most expensive real estate in the country, which explains the prices. I thought about buying a hoodie with the logo until I was informed that it cost $68.

After our brief stroll, I caught up on more of the Times, including some magazine sections that date from when there was still snow on the ground.

When I ventured out for my afternoon tea, the espresso place in the hotel was closed. I walked up to the valet guys on Bannister’s Wharf and asked for the closest place. They pointed across the street, which was partially obscured by a stone retaining wall. Once I got there it turned out to be Starbucks, which serves the most ridiculously large teabags in the world.

Holding true to form, big news broke while I was on vacation (continuing the streak that began when I was in Canada when Elvis died, visiting Philadelphia when Saddam invaded Kuwait, ditto when Princess Diana died, and a bunch of other stuff that I don’t remember at the moment.) This a.m. came the announcement that Ah-nold the governator had a 10 or 11 year old child by a “member of the household staff.” The news has obviously changed and expanded since then, but my first thought was total sympathy for Maria who must have revisited all the mutterings about her uncles on top of her own pain. Given that the story appeared shortly after the arrest of the IMF chairman on a charge of rape, these power hungry pigs make thinking about this stuff altoghter too icky.

I couldn’t file the blog because the Internet connection wasn’t working. I tried with Explorer since Firefox didn’t want to cooperate. I called the number on the card the hotel issued with the password. The woman who answered walked me through the basic script. I swear I could hear pages rustling, even though I’m sure she was reading off a screen. She replied, “We support Explorer” when I told her I use Firefox. When that didn’t work, she said someone would call me. That was Tuesday. I heard not a word, and was told when I called hours later that “calls are taken in order.” The service reappeared late Wednesday. I was going to say avoid the company but I’m almost convinced that the site used a phony name.

Tuesday night we ate dinner in the basement of the hotel at the Rhino Bar and Grille. The best part was a really nice man who sent us drinks because he and his party would be occupying the bar area. They were wonderful. A “woman of a certain age” with six or seven men – we figured probably sons and brothers.

The rest was OK for $12.95 for three courses. The portions were blessedly small, though we still couldn’t finish everything. Larry had chili, beef tips, and lava cake to go. I had salad, cod (v.. good, though a bit overcooked), and lava cake also to go.

Back at the hotel, I read an excellent NYTimes mag section from April 13 on health, including “Is Sugar Toxic?” connecting the stuff to pretty much every illness known to modern man.

At Last the Rest Can Be Revealed

May 24, 2011

First a quick item. Gene Weingarten (“The Death of English“) is just the best. I don’t know if the hat maker will still insist on the ® after Sunday’s article.

So here’s the rest of  the explanation for all those quick hits, skipped entries, etc. etc. over the past few weeks. I was part of a committee that was planning a retirement party for my sister-in-law, Deb. She’s been teaching for 37 years, so she has now three generations of students who’ve passed through her hands. And as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, the half of northern Middlesex County who isn’t a relative is a friend or acquaintance.

The party was supposed to be a surprise, though her husband and her mom got into a serious dispute about which of them had spilled the beans. The secret mostly held until her youngest sister showed up for a whirlwind four-day visit – from Iraq.

Anyway, I’m adding the party to the list of blog topics, which at this point will take me sometime into the middle of 2012. And just so things don’t get lost, I’ll start with the Newport trip and proceed in chrono order.

We started the voyage on Monday evening after Larry returned Bambino the Chihuahua to his owners. A pleasant surprise followed as we discovered gas was about fifteen cents cheaper in Old Saybrook than it was inland – also cheaper than that in Rhode Island. We stopped again in for dinner at the diner off the highway in Mystic. Larry had a lobster roll, and I had a veggie burger. Both came with way too many fries (his waffle, mine sweet potato). In a nice touch my burger came with avocado, though not with the slaw as advertised. The waitress was all personality and tried to convince us to order dessert even though neither of us finished our food.

Back on the road L. the GPS took us safely over the bridges and through the fog to Newport where we supposedly located our hotel except we didn’t see the name. Drove around the block – actually back down a second one-way street and finally asked at a place down the street. On the second pass we found it and then a spot (handicapped) to park temporarily while  we checked in.

The Newport Bay Club and Hotel, which was built as a textile mill in 1835 and has photos commemorating its early years, is actually very reasonable though there are restrictions on the number of guests and lengths of stay minimums in the high season. There are great amenities – a fold out sofa the size of a king, a shower that’s almost as big as our bathroom, a v. comfortable bed. We discovered in the a.m. that the room faced Thames Street, but it offered a great view of the people wandering up and down America’s Cup Avenue.

Also on the plus side, we discovered after some web surfing (free Wi-Fi included) that the hotel is right down the street from pretty much everything, including the restaurant where we had dinner on our honeymoon. So we made plans to go there on Wednesday. The hotel restaurant offered three courses for $13 on Tuesdays so we decided to walk downstairs on Tuesday. Also they had steamers, which is maybe Larry’s favorite food on the whole planet.

At Last It Can Be Told, Partially

May 21, 2011

Before the main topic, here’s a fabulous video of the best way to say goodbye to a friend and colleague. Middlesex Hospital rocks!

The blog silence over a couple of days this week occurred because Larry and I were in Newport, Rhode Island, having a wonderful if somewhat rainy time at a timeshare belonging to some friends. The internet connection went down, and the geeks lacked any type of people skills. Tech skills weren’t great either, as it took more than eighteen hours to come back up and wiped out all my passwords.

Since Larry and I returned, we’ve also attended two other amazing functions, and next week promises to be almost as frantic. Here’s a list of what I’ll write about, not necessarily in the order listed.

  • Geno Auriemma has a career in standup in the unlikely event that the Huskies fail and he has to leave.
  • Scot Haney (Connecticut’s “favorite” newsman) can raise serious funds for charity.
  • Newport is ideal for walking. And I discovered the place has reinvented a great many old buildings – mills, boardinghouses, shops, into some incredibly fancy hotels. The place seems to be in a constant state of reinvention. The one mansion in the vicinity seemed devoid of people, but it didn’t matter because I was soaking up the smell of lilacs and fresh-cut wood from the houses under siding repair. (No plastic siding here.)
  • The Newport Bay Club and Hotel has great amenities – a view of the harbor where we saw working boats, tour boats, a jet ski, a tech expo and many sailing craft plying the waters. We loved the feet disappearing into the wave in front of the place.
  • We had a fabulous, less formal dinner at the place where we had our fancy honeymoon dinner nearly seven years ago.
  • Other dining establishments ranged from the fascinating, Christie’s with a mysterious gaggle of 1950s women in a blown-up photo on the wall, to basic Annie’s for breakfast with a Portuguese twist, with a stop for three courses for $12.95 in between.

If I write any more now there won’t be anything left, so stay tuned …

Allergies Keep Rising ’Round My Head

May 19, 2011

Reports of  the worst ever year for allergies proliferate. The news follows last year’s report that 2010 was the worst ever.

Whatever the experts say, I’ve had two weeks when I could barely stand to wear my contact lenses, which felt like two little pieces of sandpaper scraping up and down under my lids. Larry’s car, which is dark green, turned neon yellow overnight – something that has never happened before. The sidewalk across the street from the house looked like the yellow brick road in The Wizard of Oz, except it wasn’t  brick, just whirly-birds and pollen from the maple trees.

The only time I remember anything this bad was several years go when Larry and I went to a wedding in Richmond, Virginia. The doorman at the hotel greeted us with, “You’re not from around here are you?” He couldn’t see the license plate, so we asked how he knew. He pointed to all the cars in the lot, then pointed at ours, “No pollen.” Every single car from the newest midnight blue BMW to the more downscale Fords and Chevys was covered with a deep coat of fine, fine yellow dust. Needless to say, by the time we left, everyone thought we were locals.

So is 2011 the worst pollen season ever? Maybe. Maybe not. Jack Shafer just loves phony trend stories. He says no, though he does assure the world that he’s not a “pollen denier.” One measuring location said it’s only the fifth worst in twelve years. That stat probably doesn’t really matter to the poor, tired masses of bleary-eyed, sneezing, wheezing sufferers. The problem with measuring, Shafer says, is that pollen levels vary dramatically from day to day and location to location. So maybe it is the worst in southern New England and not elsewhere.

No matter the level, those of us who are seeking relief have some options. If I sneeze more than three times early in the day, I’ll take an anti-histamine at bedtime, no earlier because the stuff knocks me out. I also try to avoid hanging out in the garden if it hasn’t rained in several days, which is not a problem recently.

I started eating honey from local hives last year and it really seemed to help. This spring one of Larry’s customers gave us a huge container of local honey and within a day after I ate a spoonful, I noticed a difference. At first I thought it was because my own special pollen had finished its cycle, but there was a yellow haze upon the land three days later, so that wasn’t the case. This may be the best solution yet.

If things grow really awful in the daytime, I just put several drops (or more) of Tabasco sauce on a cracker or rice cake and eat it. Some people consider this administering a counter irritant, but it works every time. Since I’ve long since burned out the heat sensors in my tongue, there’s almost no pain involved.

And the best advice I ever received from a doctor: Move to a completely different climate. In our case that would be something like Arizona. No thanks. I’ll keep sneezing.

The Dangers of Power

May 18, 2011

This post was supposed to go up last night but various internet snafus prevented it.

        So I’d begun processing the IMF jerk and the housekeeper at the New York hotel when the Arnold news erupted.

            My first thought in that case was of poor Maria, duped over ten years. I mean, she knew he was a groper – that came out some years ago. But the fact that he was a double adulterer – he was married and so was the “member of the household staff” at the time the child was born had to take Maria back to all those mutterings about her uncles. John, Bobbie, Teddy … 

            Now I have a few questions:

Why did Arnold wait to tell Maria until after he left office – why not way before he ran?

Why did the news surface now? Joy Behar says the LATimes was about to break the story, so maybe the media is to blame?  (BTW I totally disagree that the Kennedy family history makes Maria more capable of dealing with this despicable behavior.)

Why does Jennifer Granholm think that more women governors will keep men like Arnold from screwing around? The child was born before he was elected.

             And finally, just because I can never fully bury my cynical journalism side. Did Arnold stage this announcement as a publicity stunt for his next movie?