Written by Natalie Ladd
The temptation to make T-shirts that say, "I survived Restaurant Week 2014" is overridden by my appreciation for the extra jingle in my tips-to-tuition change jar. Knowing I'm not alone in the stress and exhaustion department, I asked restaurant folks and diners alike to send in their thoughts around the event. As promised, I verified the places of employment from my colleagues who sent in their two cents. Here's what I got:
Friday, March 7, 2:22 p.m.: "10 hours and 100+ covers stand between me and the weekend. ... Restaurant Week and First Friday can bite me. Over it and it hasn't even begun." That was taken from a Facebook page posted by a friend who works in a well-respected kitchen that generates lots of foodie buzz.
"OK, so if you print my name I'll kill you but this was the worst Restaurant Week ever. We did a Living Social deal a few months back and even though it said it wasn't valid during Restaurant Week, people kept trying to use. One woman said we'd have to take it because she didn't have any other money. I suggested she go to the ATM and my boss had a cow. If I had just taken it, my boss would have been pissed then, too," said an Old Port server with more than 12 years of experience.
"This is my first job in a restaurant and I can't believe how rude people can be. I'm the hostess and one lady wanted me to ask the kitchen if she could substitute stuff because her server said 'no.' She kept talking and talking and there was a line at the door," said Casey, 18.
"People who bad talk the Restaurant Week promotional deal should get a job in another business. It's part of the creative food scene and restaurant employees should be proud Portland still has that image," said Martha Silas-Parr, a customer.
"I'll never go to Restaurant Week again. We felt so rushed at a place we went to because it was supposed to be a great deal for the money. Friends of ours who go there often said the food choices were 'dummied down.' I ended up ordering off the regular menu and spent over $60 myself. It was good but that wasn't why we went there," said J.M., customer from Cape Elizabeth.
"Dear Natalie, In your column today (March 5, 2014) you asked for stories about Restaurant Week. While not asking for just the negative those who complain fail to recognize is how important those 10 days are for our economy. People travel to Maine for our many restaurants. Hotel occupancy and rental car sales spiked. Supporting vendors like the farmers and wine suppliers were boosted. Maybe you and your waitress friends have to work a little harder but it seems the business helps all of us," said a South Portland resident.
"I was just told restaurants pay about $400.00 to participate in Restaurant Week. For what? How much if any goes to a common good? This also answers my question about why less expensive places are never in it. There are so many smaller operations who have incredible homemade desserts and make fancy cocktails. But they're run by just a few people and can't be in those competitions or give their food away. No wonder the same boring places win the awards all the time," said Stephen Markoff, of Brunswick.
"We work at a restaurant in town and love your column. You usually get things right but something you overlooked is asking people not to bring their children to Restaurant Week. Depending where they go, the least expensive dinner starts at $22. People can still order a children's meal but the Restaurant Week deal is three full courses. By the time dessert is served, most kids have melted down. It's no fun for anybody when that happens," wrote Your Fans On Commercial Street.
"I wanted to bring a Restaurant Week meal to my wife who was in the hospital all last week and no place would do it for takeout. We get that it won't look as nice and we can't hit up for drinks and extra stuff, but that felt pretty unaccommodating," said No Name.
Several more comments poured in pointing fingers at individual establishments, servers and some explicitly awful complaints. Keeping true to my position of avoiding "review" type banter, I encourage each of you to contact the owners. Be specific and direct with your factual situations. I've said it a billion times but they really do want to make it right. And if they don't? Write me back and we'll make an exception to my "bad karma" policy.
The Down Low: Lots of places were packed during Restaurant Week but none more so than Samuel's on Sunday night and they weren't even participating. Promising Armed I'd treat him to my favorite wings (he was pretty impressed with the Stadium), we'll have to try again soon.
Restaurant Week is over but Parker's in North Deering is doing an impressive two for $25 menu all month. My friend Jeff MacDonald says business is crazy but he's always happy to meet new customers personally. Tell him you read it here and I may just get a free Tito's cosmo out of it.
More than a few positions will be available along the southern coast this year (think OOB) as several people I know will not be returning to their seasonal serving jobs. Citing recent changes in tipping and gratuity policies, along with smaller table sections, more side work and the implementation of a bad weather/on-call system, one veteran said he's had enough. "I got a letter from the restaurant owner and he outlined a bunch of changes that are supposed to make things better for all of us. He said, 'Things that will eliminate any confusion will be implemented immediately.' Really, it's just that he's hiring more people and there won't be any overtime. That really suck because nothing happens until after July 4th anyway."
When asked what he's going to do instead he shrugged and said, "I don't know. Maybe go to work for the competition or try retail. I never get to see the sun anyway."
Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 March 2014 02:14
Written by Marianna Fenton Hibbard
Valentine's Day has passed and spring is in the air. Unfortunately sometimes so is discontent with relationships. If you are married and you and your spouse decide the marriage is irretrievably broken down there are several ways you can proceed. The end of a marriage always requires a judge's signature.
Many folks ask me about obtaining an annulment, especially when the marriage has a short duration. In Maine, you can obtain a legal annulment only if your marriage was illegal to begin with. For example, if your spouse was married when he/she married you, or one of the parties has not reached the age of majority, or if the marriage took place and one of the parties is disabled by mental illness or mental retardation. Even if your marriage was very short, as long as it was legal, you cannot obtain an annulment. There are, of course, religious annulments which are not the same as a legal annulment. Religious annulments occur through your church and have no legally binding effect.
Another option is a legal separation. A legal separation is not a precursor to divorce. It is a judgment, issued by a court that separates the parties legally, and often financially. The parties must desire to live apart for more than 60 continuous days. All financial issues will be sorted out, businesses divided, assets and liabilities assigned to one spouse or the other, or both. Spousal support can be ordered. Your parental rights and responsibilities, regarding your children can be addressed as well as child support. Each party can achieve sole ownership of their own property. Essentially, it's just like being divorced, except you are still married.
Why, you ask would anyone want to do that? Well, sometimes the parties no longer wish to live together, or have any life together, but for either ethical practical or religious reasons, do not want an actual divorce. Sometimes there are financial reasons for the parties to stay married and live separate lives. For example, if one spouse has health insurance and other job related benefits that are needed by the second spouse, the parties can stay married but live separate lives, really forever.
Finally there is divorce.
Divorce is the most common way to end a marriage. Common but not necessarily easy for the parties and the children involved. Any married person can obtain a divorce. Although Maine allows folks to obtain a divorce through "fault" grounds such as adultery, desertion, gross and confirmed intoxication, cruel and abusive treatment, etc, most divorced are granted on the "no fault" basis of irreconcilable difference.
The right to a divorce is absolute, even if only one of the parties wants it. The parties can fight about the terms of the divorce but not the actual divorce. No one, in the State of Maine, is required to stay married to another person. Divorce is a difficult process. It's extremely involved, both emotionally and legally. I have been representing folks in divorces since 1997 and I have found that unless there is domestic violence it's always a good idea to engage in some counseling prior to taking that final step, especially if you have children. As difficult as divorce is on the parties, it's much more difficult on the children. In next Wednesday's column I will discuss the actual process of divorce.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 March 2014 02:14
Written by James Howard Kunstler
And so it's back to the Kardashians for the U.S. of ADD. As of Sunday The New York Times kicked Ukraine off its front page, a sure sign that the establishment (let's revive that useful word) is sensitive to the growing ridicule over its claims of national interest in that floundering, bedraggled crypto-nation. The Kardashians sound enough like one of the central Asian ethnic groups battling over the Crimea lo these many centuries — Circassians, Meskhetian Turkmen, Tatars, Karachay-Cherkessians — so the sore-beset American public must be content that they're getting the news-of-the-world. Perhaps one of those groups was once led by a Great Kanye.
Secretary of State John Kerry has shut his pie-hole, too, for the moment, as it becomes more obvious that Ukraine happens to be Russia's headache (and neighbor). The playbook of great nations is going obsolete in this new era of great nations having, by necessity, to become smaller broken-up nations. It could easily happen in the USA too as our grandiose Deep State descends further into incompetence, irrelevance, buffoonery, and practical bankruptcy.
Theories abound about what drives this crisis and all the credible stories revolve around the question of natural gas. I go a little further, actually, and say that the specter of declining energy sources worldwide is behind this particular eruption of disorder in one sad corner of the globe and that we're sure to see more symptoms of that same basic problem in one country after another from here on, moving from the political margins to the centers. The world is out of cheap oil and gas and, at the same time, out of capital to produce the non-cheap oil and gas. So what's going on is a scramble between desperate producers and populations worried about shivering in the dark. The Ukraine is just a threadbare carpet-runner between them.
Contributing to our own country's excessive vanity in the arena of nations is the mistaken belief that we have so much shale gas of our own that we barely know what to do with it. This is certainly the view, for instance, of Speaker of the House John Boehner, who complained last week about bureaucratic barriers to the building of new natural gas export terminals, with the idea that we could easily take over the European gas market from Russia. Boehner is out of his mind. Does he not know that the early big American shale gas plays (Barnett in Texas, Haynesville in Louisiana, Fayettville in Arkansas) are already winding down after just ten years of production? That's on top of the growing austerity in available capital for the so-far-unprofitable shale gas industry. That's on top of the scarcity of capital for building new liquid natural gas terminals and ditto the fleet of specialized refrigerated tanker ships required to haul the stuff across the ocean. File under "not going to happen."
Even the idea that we will have enough natural gas for our own needs in the USA beyond the short term ought to be viewed with skepticism. What happens, for instance, when we finally realize that it costs more to frack it out of the ground than people can pay for it? I'll tell you exactly what will happen: the gas will remain underground bound up in its "tight rock," possibly forever, and a lot of Americans will freeze to death.
The most amazing part of the current story is that U.S. political leaders are so ignorant of the facts. They apparently look only to the public relations officers in the oil-and-gas industries and no further. Does Barack Obama still believe, as he said in 2011, that we have a hundred years of shale gas? That was just something that a flack from the Chesapeake Corporation told to some White House aide over a bottle of Lalou Bize-Leroy Domaine d'Auvenay Les Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru. Government officials believe similar fairy tales about shale oil from the Bakken in North Dakota — a way overhyped resource play likely to pass its own peak at the end of this year.
If you travel around the upper Hudson Valley, north of Albany, where I live, you would see towns and landscapes every bit as desolate as a former Soviet republic. In fact, our towns look infinitely worse than the street-views of Ukraine's population centers. Ours were built of glue and vinyl, with most of the work completed thirty years ago so that it's all delaminating under a yellow-gray patina of auto emissions. Inside these miserable structures, American citizens with no prospects and no hope huddle around electric space heaters. They have no idea how they're going to pay the bill for that come April. They already spent the money on tattoos and heroin.
Last Updated on Monday, 10 March 2014 21:19
Written by Robert Libby
Evaluating the excellent responses I received since last week's essay revealed a mix of outrage and anger among readers. As we have noted before, the Declaration of Independence spells out quite clearly the responsibility of the people to demand removal of institutions of government that fail to meet the needs of the governed.
There is abundant evidence that the process of government in our country has been usurped by persuasive forces of self enrichment that make the real function of government nearly impossible. This corruptive gaming of the system is compounded by the skillful manipulation of mass media of information to create popular reactions of ill informed hysteria among segments of the general public.
Every attempt at national governance can be interpreted as government take over and the surrender of individual freedom. International agreements, guarantees of mutual defense, treaties for recognizing standards of public access for individuals with disabilities, defending the individual rights of self determination, providing a national standard for educational achievement, recognizing the global actions that will be required to save the planet from further climatological devastation: all these activities are rendered almost impossible by the infective lobbyists that attack every agreement and weaken the language of every bill that would seek to create a better future.
Forces of wealth have always maintained more access and control of government, but recently that activity has risen to such an extent that the foundation of government of, by, and for the people is in question. Politically the issue of the Affordable Care Health Insurance Law is the one issue that the Republican Party organization seems poised to run on. After years of saturation media bombing on the job killing effects and the socialist government take over of our lives. The blatant misinformation of these claims seem to have little impact on the party's willingness to extoll them.
Today in Clearwater, Fla. voters will choose a replacement representative for the Thirteenth Congressional District to serve out the eight months left on the current term of 40-year veteran congressman Bill Young who died in office. Tens of millions of dollars of mostly outside money has been spent by both sides and the message has mostly focused on Obamacare. Republicans supporting Young's former aide Jolly claim they will repeal Obamacare. Democrat Sink embraces Obamacare as a step in the right direction and claims a sensible Congress working together can make improvements to the existing law. Trying to appeal to a mostly elderly electorate, candidate Sink tries to expose Jolly's recent career as a lobbyist working to weaken social security entitlements. Do you think the voters in the district would be better served if every source of campaign funds spent in the district had to be identified?
The United States Chamber of Congress has invested millions of dollars in support of Republican Jolly; do you think their clients have an interest in sympathetic access to members of Congress? Florida is one of the most jeopardized regions in the country by the aspect of rising sea level and more extreme weather events; do you suppose the race is being framed in any way on this issue, or suppression of voter turn out, or immigration reform, or minimum wage increases?
Increasingly, popular elections are being framed by tailored messages that avoid taking real stands by candidates and if elected the new representative starts immediately trying to attract large donation support for the next election while avoiding any position which might be spun by the opposition. This is no way to run a country. Starting today I believe we have a matter of months to restore real participatory democracy to our system. Roll up your sleeves. Let's get to work.
(One Man’s Island columnist Robert Libby of Chebeague Island is a teacher, writer, organic gardener, executive director of the Maine Center for Civic Education.)
Last Updated on Monday, 10 March 2014 21:24
Written by Heidi Wendel
Here's this week's episode of Season 3 of The Port City Chronicle, the continuing story of Gretchen, a 46-year-old criminal defense lawyer, and her family and friends, seeking love and happiness in Portland the hard way:
When You Were a Shadow of Your Present Self
"Yes it was a bad date. But we had sex because that's my default," Nicole said. "Otherwise, how do you salvage a bad evening?"
But considering how many evenings she'd had to salvage recently, it seemed like she was overdating a little.
The problem was she needed to stay busy to keep from stalking her ex-boyfriend Doug, who was threatening to take her to court.
Not that she saw it as a problem. As she pointed out, everybody was always stalking everybody these days — look at the NSA, for example — though she admitted she might have to pay more for it than they did in court.
"Didn't you read that all the new lights in the airport are actually cameras?" she said. "And I bet they're also recording devices. You have to assume you're being watched and recorded all the time, except maybe in your own home."
"Even in your own home," Tim said, handing Milagros a basket of fries across the table at The Snug.
"Why, are you recording me?" she asked.
"No, you're recording me."
Of course, nobody would ever bother recording Tim lying around the house like an overturned turtle.
But Nicole wasn't basing her right to stalk Doug solely on the fact that the government was watching her buy gum at the airport. Apparently her old fiancé constantly sent her pictures of himself six years after he'd married someone else. He even sent her pictures of his kids and his house and dog so she'd see everything that could have been hers if they hadn't split up.
"Not to mention for some reason he always calls me Nicky, which is not even what he called me when we were together. I guess he feels like that's less formal. But I actually want him to be more formal. In fact, I'd like him to call me Ms. Brenner," Nicole said. "Or at least Miss Nicole. I've actually asked a lot of people to call me that but it hasn't caught on."
Most recently she'd looked up Doug's new girlfriend on line and told him she couldn't believe he was going out with someone so mousy.
"At least I wasn't boring," she said.
He agreed."Yeah, you're not boring but you're an f'ing freak. I'm looking for someone boring."
Meanwhile I tried to fix her up with everybody I knew, but nothing worked out. "Do you have someone with more edge?" she asked after a date with a guy from my office. "I feel like Jake is a little doughy."
A guy I'd met at the farmer's market didn't interest her either for various reasons, including he had no cell phone. Not that it surprised Nicole.
"Of course he doesn't have a cell phone. Look how he lives. There's nothing in his refrigerator except yogurt."
The truth was she was still completely obsessed with Doug and wouldn't be interested in anyone else until she got out of that loop. She got even worse after she went on eHarmony and it matched her and Doug as perfect for each other. Naturally she instantly let him know.
"What did he say?" I asked.
"He blocked me."
Then she tried to trick him into contacting her again by using other people's photos, including mine, and constantly changing her profile. But all it did was scare off other people.
"I'm confused," one guy wrote her. "You were an art teacher two hours ago and now you're a lawyer. Every time I check back something is different about you."
Sometimes people need to be spied on for their own good.
She was also alienating her other friends, especially her married friends with kids, by blowing off invitations to get together. She saw it as a kind of protest.
"Look, I don't have a husband who makes money. I don't have a nice house. I don't have cute kids. I don't take 'wonderful' family vacations," she said, holding a postcard one of her friends sent her. "I can't write to people telling them I'm having a great time in the Caribbean with my family. All I have is my right not to write back to people who send me postcards of their family vacations. All I have is my right not to have anything to do with anyone who has a husband who makes money, and kids and a house and a dog and goes on vacations in the Caribbean."
When I didn't respond to that diatribe, she shrugged. "Anyway, that's my 'Thought for the Day.'"
She wouldn't be her normal self again until she got over Doug.
"You didn't even like him that much," I said. "Remember the time you met someone else while you were still dating him? You met a guy at a bar you really liked. Doug didn't even make you happy — you were still sowing your wild oats."
She rolled her eyes. "He bought me a drink. I sowed one oat."
I tried again."You have to admit things weren't that great with Doug. It's just that you never got beyond the period where it doesn't even matter whether you really like the person, you just don't want to be dumped."
Of course, that period can last a lifetime for some people, but I saw no point in mentioning that.
When she wasn't stalking Doug, she spent hours online airing her views about family life, husbands, houses, dogs, and vacations in comments to articles on yahoo. She said she was trying to meet people with similar interests but nobody seemed to share hers.
"You're a jerk," somebody wrote in response to one of her comments.
That made her realize she had to make some changes.
"I need to find something that makes me happy," she said. "I don't want to be one of those people who has to go around saying 'It's all good.'"
It turned out the person who could help her the most was Tim. Apparently he'd also stalked former girlfriends, hated married people with kids, and spewed random angry comments online.
"Eventually it runs its course and you'll be over it," he said. "I used to do it all the time. I was a shadow of my present self."
So Nicole had finally found someone with similar interests and who wasn't concerned about her obsession. After all, Tim pointed out, with all the cameras everywhere people couldn't have such a thin a skin about being stalked a little or being contacted by people they didn't necessarily want to hear from.
"I just want to talk to him," Nicole said desperately.
Tim was completely understanding.
"Of course you want to talk to him," he said. "That's what selves do."
Last Updated on Monday, 10 March 2014 17:24