Dispatches from Maine

Just another person of little note writing about ordinary things. That I reside in Maine is icing on the cake.

24 June 2007

Bravo Bennigan's!

It is just a fact of life that chain restaurants are never going to have that level of service you associate with a local place. The staff is simply not all that invested in the establishment, but while returning from Pittsburgh the Bennigan's off of I-81 in Wilkes-Barre revealed a new low.

Now I believe, with all sincerity, that you need to treat wait staff right. My wife has even more strict rules than I do because she worked as at Friendly's when we were in college. With all that in mind, a big pet peeve of mine is when you ask "What kind of beer do you have?" or "What's on draft?" of your waiter and receive "Everything!" as a reply. Even the famed Bukowski's in Boston does not have everything! With proportionality in mind, I have started to reply with some extremely rare beer, say Thomas Hardy Ale or Otter Creek Hickory Switch Smoked Amber Ale. Honestly, "everything" normally translates into three kinds each of Miller and Bud, which leaves me ordering iced tea. The scene is now set for...Bennigan's.

We had just finished the drive from Pittsburgh to Wilkes-Barre and stopped in for a rather late lunch. Since my big drive was over, I decided to opt for a beer with lunch. This was, with all seriousness, the dialog which resulted...

Me: "What do you have on draft."
Waitress: "We have, like, twenty kinds of beer on draft. What do you want?"
Me: "Um."
(I paused with the hope that she might have a list.)
"How about any wheat beers?"
Waitress: "We have Sunset Wheat and Yuengling."
(Sunset Wheat stinks and Yeungling is not a wheat beer)
Me: "How about anything German?"
Waitress: "Yeah. Uh. We have, like, Killians and Guinness."
(Wow. Keep in mind here that "Bennigan's" is a faux-Irish chain. IRISH! For God's sake the name of the first beer is Killian's IRISH Red.)
Me: "I guess I will have the Sunset Wheat."

What followed was, without debate, the third worst dining experience ever. Poor woman, I hope there is a better life ahead for her than being a miserable, grouchy waitress. In any case, steer clear of Bennigan's in Wilkes-Barre.

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09 June 2007

On Hook

To people of a certain age, "on hook" brings back memories of rotary dial telephones sitting in their cradles. This morning, however, was witness to my youngest finally getting a fish "on hook" at our local pond. She and I have been going there to fish for a few years now. Ordinarily, a trip lasts around thirty minutes and revolves around casting, snacking, reading comics and selecting different tackle. The solid fishing phase lasts around twenty minutes at the most. Just the right amount for her age, at least in my view.

As with all people who fish, she has her personal nemesis: The Big Fat Fish. When she first began fishing her line would return with the bait absent, which to her was a sure sign that a wise old fish was taking the good stuff without landing on hook. She learned about jigging and PowerBait and all sorts of tricks with the apple of her eye always The Big Fat Fish. As the years have gone by this unseen creature has gained almost mythic proportions.

This morning she was wet wading after having her chocolate milk and maple doughnut (with jimmies). Her casts were pretty good, until she threw a really short one. While laughing with me about it, she felt the line pull suddenly away. She squealed and started to real in her line, with her rod was bent over the line refused to come back in. The fish was giving her a nice fight and swimming back and forth right within her area of view. Just as I stepped into the water with her, the fish made a mad dash to the right and hit the limit of the line. It leaped up, completely clearing the water and showing us what it means to be a trout! The fish was a mid-sized beautiful brown trout, complete with silver belly and speckles. It fell back into the water disgorging the hook then swam away.

She was awed by her first real fight with a good sized fish. The bass she caught at Bay Lake in Walt Disney World were nothing like this trout. She turned to me with a gasp, "I caught The Big Fat Fish." She already breathlessly told the tale to her fisherman grandfather. I see a lifetime addiction to fishing for my young lady. Without doubt the mythic Big Fat Fish lives on to fight another day.

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08 June 2007

Unfamiliar Books Meme

I was tagged by Tom Accuosti at The Tao of Masonry with the unfamiliar books meme. He selected some excellent works, and I imagine it is up to me to return in kind. As difficult as it might be to select only three unusual books to recommend, since as a student of Masonry my library is filled with unusual works, I have opted to go for three unusual books on different topics:

  • Freemasonry - "Sephir H'Debarim" or "The Book of the Words" by Albert Pike
    I have never before read a work by the esteemed Bro. Albert Pike. The magnum opus "Morals and Dogma" feels like learning to run a marathon by going directly to the Olympic trials. This text explores in great detail the history, origins and esoteric meaning behind words used in Masonic ritual, both Craft Lodge and Scottish Rite. As such it is an incredibly deep, difficult work which sends me scurrying off for Wikipedia or Merriam-Webster quite often. It has been deepening my understanding of the rituals I already know and interesting me in those which I have yet to personally study. I would recommend this to any serious student of Masonic ritual.

  • History - "In the Wake of Madness" by Joan Druett.
    This is a wonderful pop history book about a murder on board the whaling ship Sharon. I have written about it in a past blogpost, and already passed it around to my friends. My own brief review in that post was...
    While sailing the whaling grounds of the south Pacific the captain of the Sharon was murdered by a few mutinous crewman. The single handed recapture of the ship by the Mainer Benjamin Clough was so well known it was reproduced in a stage play. The book is extremely well written and leaves the reader with a sense of the vagaries of whaling in the mid nineteenth century. The best line of the book: "Whaling captains were men who left their souls at home."

  • Catholicism - "The Mass of the Early Christians" by Mike Aquilina.
    I have always had an intense personal interest in the early Christian Church, particularly the patristics. Yet it is fair to say that most of the works from this period would be considered "dense." As the material related to the liturgy current at the time is normally scattered in small snippets among many texts, the author does us all a favor by accumulating those snippets into a single book. I learned many new things while reading this work, but the most interesting item must be "the discipline of the secret." In the early Church the nature and language of the Mass was a carefully guarded secret, so that there are almost no clear liturgical texts, as the GIRM (General Instruction of the Roman Missal) does today. The author clarifies the nature of the early liturgy by threading together the material from The New Testament, the Didache, pagan historical texts, and sixteen Fathers of the Church.
I tag "Aude, Vide, Tace", "Tales from the Testosterone Zone", Bro. Hodapp from "Freemasons for Dummies", Bro. Stewart from "Masonic Traveler" and Mike Wilber from ";;;;;; --///.. ll./.---. ..ll ll;;--".

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