Thursday, November 6, 2008

Election 2008

Current mood: disappointed
Category: News and Politics

“I will remain heartbroken that on Nov 4, 2008 the United States of America chose communism over democracy. Stalin is laughing in his grave!”

This was my thought this morning in the wake of the election of Barack Hussein Obama to the presidency of the United States of America.

So that was what I placed in the “status”section of both my facebook and MySpace pages. In response, I was sent a message that I should look up communism, listen to the rhetoric of Obama and “get a clue.”

So, . . . the definition of communism:
In the schema of historical materialism communism is the idea of a free society with no division or alienation, where mankind is free from oppression and scarcity. A communist society would have no governments, countries, or class divisions. According to Karl Marx, socialism is the intermediate system between capitalism and communism, when the government is in the process of changing the means of ownership from privatism, to collective ownership.

Translated that means taking the money that I make from my own hard work and sharing it with everyone else, regardless of their productivity in society.

And the rhetoric of Obama:
In a 2001 interview, Obama said:

“If you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy in the court, I think where it succeeded was to invest formal rights in previously dispossessed people, so that now I would have the right to vote. I would now be able to sit at the lunch counter and order and as long as I could pay for it I'd be OK.

But, the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society. To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn't that radical. It didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as it's been interpreted, and the Warren Court interpreted in the same way,that generally the constitution is a charter of negative liberties. Says what the states can't do to you. Says what the federal government can't do to you,but doesn't say what the federal government or state government must do on your behalf.

And that hasn't shifted and one of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was because the civil rights movement became so court-focused I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change. In some ways we still suffer from that.”

Do you get that, people? Kennedy said,'Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.' Obama says, 'Ask not what you can do for your country but ask what your country MUST DO FOR YOU.'
I remember the the bread lines of the “proletariat” in Russia under communist rule, while the leaders lived in the lap of excess luxury. There will ALWAYS be class in society. It is unavoidable. But FREEDOM comes from a minimalist government, maximum personal liberties and the insistence of personal responsibility of all the people. Charity should be private, not government mandated. Sloth should not be rewarded. Dependence should not be fostered.

These are scary times.
The only thing the government should do on my behalf is to create a military to protect our borders and to negotiate with foreign countries to keep them the hell out. Everything else the people of the nation can do for themselves and for each other.

So….. Who needs to get a clue?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Finding a pearl in an unlikely place

Category: Food and Restaurants

Once in awhile, if you are willing to take a chance, you can find a pearl of a restaurant in an unlikely place. That is what happened when I stumbled upon The Bank Restaurant and Wine Bar
during my recent solo vacation adventure to Spring Green, Wisconsin.

Arrived at my dingy motel this past Wednesday, the Spring Valley Inn, I was hungry and wanted to find a local place to have a nice meal before it was time to go to see The Belle's Strategem at American Player's Theater (an outdoor theater in a natural acoustical bowl). There was a quarter page ad in the community magazine inside my motel room for The Bank Restaurant and Wine Bar. The ad didn't intrigue me so much as the fact that it was a wine bar in the middle of nowhere. It seemed a little lofty type of place for this rural community. Curiosity got the best of me, and off I went to check the place out.

The signage at the "The Bank" was rather obscure and I actually went up and down Jefferson Street several times before I finally spotted the place. I got a spot close to the door and hopped out of the car. The charm factor increased appreciably with every step towards the building. It really was a bank at some point! The thick stone walls, the double entry doors, the original bank name etched in the granite near the roofline all added to the feel of walking into a bank.

I entered and was pleasantly surprised to find the original floors, ceilings, crown & dental molding, teller's cage, and even the vault in orignal condition. Yet, it was a restaurant. Faye greeted me and told me that it would be a little while before she could seat me. It certainly didn't seem to be crowded and I saw empty tables, but I was willing to wait. I explained that I needed to get out in time to head to the theater and was assured that this would not be a problem. Faye invited me to sit in the lovely waiting area directly in front of her podium which was an inviting living room type sitting area, or to sit at the bar. I chose to sit in one of the half a dozen or so upholstered seats at the small bar.

Once seated, a young lady inquired as to what I might like to drink. My eyes were already taking in the many bottles of wine and so I asked to see the wine list. I was handed two legal side pieces of card stock, each printed on both sides. One list for whites and one for reds. The white list was barely glanced at before it was set aside so that I could study the red list. Not many names were familiar, so I asked the young lady, who turned out be the FOH manager Dani, to tell me some of her favorites. She came alive as she described four wines to me. I went with her highest recommendation.

While she was pouring my wine in the correct size and shaped glass, I asked if it was permissible to eat at the bar and was thrilled that I could stay put and have my meal and wine too. Dani and I conversed easily as I sipped the 2002 Australian Shiraz called "The Gate" from McLaren Winery. I couldn't wait for my flat iron steak in rootbeer-ginger reduction with curried rice and sauteed zucchini and summer squash to arrive. I knew the wine would pair well with my meal.

When the meal arrived, I was again pleasantly surprised by the artistic presentation and perfect portion size. Dani politely left so that I could enjoy my meal. I savored each perfectly prepared bite. It was a tantalizing mix of flavors which the wine complemented splendidly.

After I was through with my meal Dani returned and I learned that the menu changes each and every Thursday, which was the exact thing to say to me to ensure that I would return the following day. After all, I had her other wine recommendations to try, and if the menu would be different too, then why not! Before I left, Faye gave me a tour of the three dining rooms, vault dining for a party of six, and some history of the building.

I returned Thursday, this time greeted by Bob, a friendly welcoming man standing at the host's podium where Faye had been the night before. Rather than sitting at the bar, I took a table in one of the three dining rooms. Cathrine greeted me warmly after a few minutes and I started with one of the other three wines recommended by Dani the night before (2005 Argentinian Cabernet Sauvignon "Cueva de las Manos Reserva) . I ordered immediately, a salad: "European field greens tossed with baby spinach, tomato, cucumber and red onion, dressed with sherry vinaigrette." and a chicken dish with bacon, red rice pilaf and creamy alfredo sauce.

The timing of the courses was just right. The salad was dinner sized and not large enough to interfere with my appetite for the entree to come. Ample, but not too much time between courses allowed for a bit of relaxation and friendly conversation with Cathrine. The meal again, was artistically presented (see the photo in my vacation album) and modestly proportioned leaving me pleasantly satisfied and not overfed.

After the main course, I switched wines to another of Dani's recommendations (Three Graces Pinot Noir). Cathrine suggested "Chocolate with Cherry Surprise" for dessert, and I went for it. It is described as "dark and white chocolates mousses covered with a dark chocolate shell and layered with a chocolate covered cherry surprise."

All of the dining room worker bees seemed to be women. The food runner and even Erica, who was busy bussing and maticulously resetting tables. Everyone was friendly and polite. As I wrote in a previous blog, dining alone is often an awkward experience. Not so at The Bank. Everyone made me feel welcome and were most eager to chat.

I could not have asked for a better dining experience either night. My thanks and compliments to all who make The Bank, a fine dining experience which is not to be missed if you are anywhere near Spring Green, Wisconsin.

Restuarant Website:

Overall rating on a 1-5 scale: 5
Food: 5
Service: 5
Ambience: 5
Hospitality: 5

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

He's just NOT That Into You

Current mood: enlightened
Category: Romance and Relationships

Last night I read "He's Just NOT That Into You" by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo. First of all it's really unlike me to read an entire book in one night. This is partially because I read so slowly and partially because reading is so relaxing I usually fall asleep post haste. All that being said, I devoured this book because it tells you the truth in the most uplifting and funny way that I just did not want it to end. I read it in 3 1/2 hours! Wow!

The book is written by comedian and Greg Behrendt who was a consultant to the writers of "Sex and the City" for a few seasons. The co-author, Liz Tuccillo is actually a writer on the show. So these people are certified funny people. Greg's credentials also include his years of dating prior to finding "the one" and settling down to get married and procreate. And Liz is dating in the city and brings a woman's perspective to the uncomfortable truths laid out by Greg.

The gist of the book is to let women know a few things about men that I must say, as a woman... are hard to swallow. Women like to complicate men and read a lot into them, but Greg states and reiterates often that men are NOT complicated and if we just take them at face value rather than reading into their behavior and making excuses for them, we as dating women will be much better off. We will not waste time on the wrong man or dead end relationships of "convenience." And Greg, communicates all of this wrapped in a belief that all women are HOT in their own ways and there are men out there who will appreciate our unique hotness and most of all, and most importantly that WE ARE WORTH HAVING IT ALL! This is good advice.

As I read, and learned I found myself doing an inventory of past relationships and finding the huge red flags that told me "he's just NOT that into me." At times this was painful, but since I am not with anyone right now, I already know that my past relationships are over.

The one glaring thing that came to me as I read that in my last long term relationship, he WAS into me! I had it there. What's worse? I didn't know it.... couldn't see it. And I have to live with the fact that I screwed it up. I'm not going to in to what I did or how I messed up the best relationship of my life, with the love of my life, but I did. I have to live with my mistakes. My mistakes in that relationship are the only regrets in my life. I hate that I woke up had my epiphany & figured out what I was doing so wrong after it was too late and he was no longer willing to give me another chance. He moved on immediately after the break-up and is now engaged to be married to another woman. I don't like that another woman is living the life I should have had ... but, I have accepted it. I also learned that you know you truly love someone deeply when their personal happiness becomes more important to you than your own desire to be with them. And so..... I move on too.

I am glad that I am not one of those who believe that there is only one person on the planet that is a good match. There are multiple people out there that would be a good fit. I need to go out and find one of them. This time though, I will be armed with knowledge to know when "he's just not that into me" so I don't waste my time on dead ends.

To all the women out there who are still looking for Mr Right, or are dating someone and feels she's getting missed signals. READ THIS BOOK! There are no mixed signals. Men tell you very clearly with their behavior whether or not they are really into you. When you're done reading this book, you'll know what those behaviors are and you will also know what it DOES look like when he's really into you!

Read ladies! You are worth having it all! I am too!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Mambo Italiano - A Restaurant Review

Category: Food and Restaurants

Yesterday, Sunday April 13, 2008 just before 7PM I pulled into the strip mall that has a relatively new Italian restaurant called Mambo Italiano. It is on Butterfield Rd in Mundelein IL As soon as you walk in, you lose the feel that you are in a strip mall. The lighting was subdued, the walls were a warm brown painted in such a way as to give the impression of old weathered stucco or plaster. Tables were covered in white linen and topped with butcher paper. Salmon colored bread and butter dishes were topped with neatly folded mauve colored napkins.

The hostess desk is set back a bit into the restaurant, so you have to walk past a few tables to get there. I was behind a middle-aged couple who arrived at the same time I did. There were two girls at the hostess stand. They greeted the couple and one of the girls took them away to their table. The girl left behind did not make eye contact with me at all. She was more interested in answering the phone. A moment later a man, most likely the manager or owner came over and said hello. "Just me!" I announced as he was about to ask if I was going to be joined by others.

A lone diner. I threw him off and he didnt' know what to do with me, so he interrupted the girl on the phone and asked her which section was last sat. She snapped an answer at him as yet another girl came to the hostess stand. The man asked her if a certain server was just sat and she snapped back that she didn't know either. It all came across as bickering. I didn't think this was a good first impression, but I decided to stick it out because I was really craving Italian food.

Finally, the man decided where to put me and took me through an empty dining room into another well-seated one. I was given a booth at the window, I thanked him and took my place. I was rather disappointed to be at the window because the view of the parking lot through the white shears reminded me that I was indeed in a strip mall. I believe I would have enjoyed the ambiance farther back in the space. But, I was there for the food. So, I didn't ask to be re-seated.

The manager handed me a menu and removed the extra place settings. As he was doing this I inquired as to what the specialty was there. His answer was, "Everything," which is not what a patron wants to hear. When someone asks me that where I work, I know exactly what to say. Because the truth is, you can't be great at everything, but you CAN be known to be excellent for some special things. So, this was a red flag for me.

I looked at the menu which was a large piece of cardboard with printing on both sides. Much to my dismay, the wines were not on it and there was no wine list on the table. Another faux pas. A solo diner should be treated no differently than a group. A wine list should have been given to me like everyone else.

Seven minutes went by before I my waiter, Mark arrived at the table. I was actually just about to leave, and he got there in the nick of time. When he arrived he asked if I was waiting for someone and he was surprised when I told him that I was flying solo. Then I really through him off when I asked what his favorite meal was there. He said it was a tough question. Why? I wondered.

He regrouped, told me there was bread in the oven for me and then decided instead of answering the question, he would tell me all about the specials. He knew his specials very well and recited the precisely. As he did this, he did happen to mention that the ribeye special was his favorite dinner and that the Marsala was his favorite sauce. He asked if I had any questions. I replied, "No. I'll have the veal parmesian." THEN he asked if I would like something to drink. Silly me, I threw him off again by asking for the wine list.

Five minutes later he brought the wine list. Obvoiusly this kid did not know how important it was to get a drink in the hands of his customers FAST, because once they have one, they won't pay so much attention to the time everything takes. It took way too long for him to check back with me for my selection, but I will say, once I ordered the Ruffino Chianti Classico (Tan), he was quick about getting it to me. Finally!

The entrees come with soup or salad. I opted for the salad and asked for caesar dressing. I was not informed that this would cost me an extra $2.00, which I found out later when I got the check. The salad was fresh, but was tossed in way too much dressing. The bread, which was brought by the bus boy earlier was warm and rather bland. I took advantage of the bottle of olive oil on the table, but noticed that I was not offered freshly grated cheese. No. There was pre-grated cheese in a shaker on the table. This was quite an incongruity for the atmosphere, food selection and pricing. In fac, it was disappointing.

I sipped my wine and enjoyed the salad as I was waiting for my meal to arrive. Bus staff were attentive and took my plate in a timely manner. The waiter brought the entree himself and asked if he could bring anything else. I told him to check back soon as I would be ready for another glass of wine to drink with my meal, and off he went.

The portion of veal almost completely filled the plate which also had a small portion of little penne with marinara sauce on it. The veal was pounded paper thin and was very tender, but the breading was way too thick and overwhelmed the flavor of the veal. The sauce was sweet ans spicy, with the most robust flavor being sweet onion. I could not discern any garlic or Italian herbs. The cheese on top was an excellent blend and very generous. I will say that I was surprised by the penne, as I expected the traditional spaghetti. There was no choice of pasta shape given when ordering.

The waiter took too long to come by for me to order that second glass of wine, but I ordered it anyway. Again, he was quick in bringing it.

I ate about a third of the portion bought to me. When I pushed the plate away, it still took quite a bit of time for Mark to return to the table. he asked if I would like to have that packed up and of course I agreed. He was about to drop my check before offering me dessert and coffee. In fact I had to request the dessert menu and I was never offered coffee. This kid needs to learn about suggestive selling! I asked him what his favorite dessert was after he dropped the menu, and he immediately answered with "Our homemade Tiramisu." I was surprised at the homemade comment and said so, and he said they also make homemade canoli and cannoli puffs. I immediately ordered a cannoli without looking at the rest of the dessert menu.

When he brought the cannoli he also left the check. As he speeded away I said, I hope its as good as Little Italy in New York. He barely turned his head to acknowledge my comment with a laugh. I never saw Mark again. Since the place emptied, I guess he chose to do his side work and not attend to the solo diner that was left in his section.

I put cash in the check presenter, and walked through the now mostly empty restaurant. After I passed the two hostesses and manager who were talking to each other, one of the hostesses thanked me and wished me a good night.

Overall rating on a 1-5 scale: 3.5
Food: 4
Service: 3
Ambience: 4
Hospitality: 3

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Dining Alone

Category: Food and Restaurants

Today I managed the Sunday Brunch at work and when I was through with my shift at around 6:30 this evening, I decided that I wanted to take myself out to eat. Myself. that's it. Just me. I do this semi-regularly and it is always an interesting experience. Not everyone can do it. I don't know if it takes moxie, self assurance, or just the pure enjoyment of eating, which, after all is the "other" sensual pleasure available to us in life.

I have, on occasion, been ignored when dining alone. Some hosts and servers seem to have difficulty wrapping their heads around the concept that someone would eat at a restaurant sans companionship. It makes them uncomfortable! How funny is that? Their role doesn't change. They must simply do their jobs like they do countless other times each day they work. What is it about a solo diner that throws people off their game?

I wonder if the restaurant folk are concerned that a person is lonely? They may be. Or they may just find themselves needing to grab a meal when their significant other is away, or busy. Or perhaps, they had a rough day and want time to process things so that they don't have to bring their troubles home to their families. Maybe they are in town on business and need to eat. Or perhaps, they just want to treat themselves to a nice meal that they would not or could not prepare for themselves.

Now, since I have been "taking myself out to eat" for most of my adult life, one would think that I would get it. I do. And in fact, over the years as I have become more and more comfortable with eating out alone, I find myself in the role of putting others at ease with it. It's no big deal to me. But, I make light and instead of saying "One" as I am greeted, acknowledge or sometimes stared at with bewilderment by the Host, I usually smile brightly and say something like, "I'm flying solo tonight!" in a very perky voice. It's amazing how something so simple can remove a look of concern as they ponder where to put just one person.

You would think that seating one person would be easy. It's not. Personally, I never understood why it seemed to throw them off. But that was before I became a server and restaurant manager myself. You see, no server wants a "1-top" because they won't make as much money from one person as they would from a party of 2, 4 or more. That is a a truth. However, as a server, I have on several occasions so far, and hopefully many more to come, been enriched by taking care of my "1-tops."

A person dining alone is rare. As a server who often dines alone, I recognize this, understand both sides, and take advantage of it. It's much easier to engage a solo diner in conversation. I always ask what the occasion is that brings them out on their own. This is usually all that is necessary to hear all about their business trip or that they are "bach-ing" it for the night, or that the kids were driving her crazy and she just needed to have some solitude in the adult world. These are fabulous opportunities to have a very real human connection in an otherwise superficial venue.

When I am in the dining seat, I also attempt to engage my server. Some are put off by this and some jump right in and welcome the connection. I have had some really good conversations with wait staff over the years. Some people serve because they need money, some because they have no other skills, some because they love the social nature of the job, or a combination of these or other factors.. It is easy to find out with a smile and few friendly questions. If the server is open I will watch as my curiosity about them brightens their mood. When that happens, we both have a good experience.

The other thing I do as a solo diner is make sure that my presence in a server's section is worth their while. In other words, I am a good tipper. I never leave less than 20% when dining alone. And when I revisit a place, this is then known about me and it changes how I am treated and perceived.

Tonight, I was in the mood for Italian and took myself to a relatively new place that I have been wanting to try: Mambo Italiano. My next blog will be my version of a restaurant review of my experiences there not only as a sole diner, but as a food lover.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Loss Sucks

Current mood:Unsettled
Category: Life
Six months after my last blog entry and the theme of loss continues. And, I must tell you... it sucks. Here's a recap:

September 2006: David breaks up with me

December 2006: I lose my thyroid via surgery due to CA

January 2007: Uncle Bob, an important father figure to me, loses his battle with ALS

July 2007: My own father loses his battle with lung cancer. (This is the big one.)

August 2007: My job is eliminated

October 2007: My cousin Brian loses his battle with alcoholism

January 2008: A dear lady who adopted me into her family out here in IL, Joan Twarowski dies of cancer after a long fight.

March 2008: Aunt Ethel dies at age 94. (I was planning a trip to see her this spring.)

That is a hell of a lot of loss and I have to tell you, it's too much for one person to deal with alone. I realize that the other people in the family have experienced most of these losses as well. What makes it different for me however, is that I am alone. Everyone else has spouses and/or children depending on them. No one depends on me. And so.... I also find myself grieving the loss of my chance at motherhood.

Alone and grieving is not a good place to be. It is horribly depressing and I'm not a generally depressed person, so feeling down was alien to me. In fact it is dibilitating. I have been paralized. I have been nonfunctional If I hadn't had my little dog, Ozzy, I don't know that I would have survived at all. He is what I know I have to take care of every day. Everything else, I didn't care about.

Now I am finally wanting to choose life and fight my way out of this abyss. I need help, but I know not who to ask. Hell, I don't even know what kind of help I need, for that matter. I have made a mess of my finances. I seem to be afraid of everything. The only thing that keeps me going is work. And even that is not the best. I need to find a regular job, with benefits, but I am so mired in grief that I don't know what I want to look for or where to begin.

I think about moving back to New Jersey so that I can be close to family again, but I really don't want to go back there. I would much rather have everyone move out here to Chicagoland!

Floundering in limbo is what life is right now.

The only thing I have really worked on and enjoyed in the past year or so is the novel that I am writing. I have made some good progress and hope to finish it in the next few months or so. Then I will have to figure out how to go about getting it published. The problem is that it is a very well written and very erotic novel. So what kind of publisher would touch it? I'm thinking I'll have to send it to Larry Flynt or Bob Guccione, but I would prefer it be picked up by a decent publishing house and marketed towards couples. I have let few people read experpts and have received some fabuous feedback. The recurring theme of the feedback is that it is well written and VERY HOT. There is enough plot to hook women into caring about the characters and yet has the kind of language that men find.... um.... shall we say, "stimulating." I think it could be a great erotic bedtime story for couples. It could be the catalyst for mutual fantasy exploration.

I was originally concerned about embarrassing the family and considered using a pseudonym when I sought publication. After much thought, it became clear that I have to put my name on it, because I'm always the one saying that Americans need to stop sweeping sex under the rug and start talking about it. I mean, by the age of 15, a teenager could probably tell you more than a hundred ways to kill another person but not be able to tell you how to please another person. The paranoia over nudity and sexual content is ridiculous to me. Shouldn't we show how to treat each other well in our media and not how to kill each other? I would like to see more loving relationships on TV that admit to sexual relations. The only show that I watch that continually goes there is a cartoon! Family Guy actually explores in a very clever and funny way the sex life of a married couple. It's genius! Seth MacFarlane even showed bdsm fetish play between Peter and Lois.

OK... I'm done rambling for the moment. This blog took on a direction all its own, but I am going to take the risk and post it anyway.