Friday, October 31, 2014

What I’ll be going out as (and what I hope to get in my bag)

Of course, I will not actually be going out as anything.

And since I won’t be going out as anything, there will be nothing in my bag. Since I won’t have one.

But my sister lives in Salem, and I’ll be heading up there and, in the spirit of good fun, I will be in costume. But in the spirit or little or no effort, it actually won’t be that much of a costume.

Not much of a stretch, but I will be going at as an old lefty: jeans, turtle neck, army shirt (authentic Viet Nam era, once belonging to my former brother in law), bandana, and dangling earrings. (Not big hoops: in the spirit of little or no effort, I was too lazy to go out and scout some up. But the ones I have are sufficiently hippy-ish. They’ll pass.)

I wish I still had a pair of Dr. Scholl’s sandals around…

I thought I had a bunch of old buttons – boycott grapes, get out of Viet Nam – but they seem to have disappeared on me. I was able to find a McGovern for President pin, and an Uppity Women Unite of recent vintage but 1970 sentiment.

I have an artsy necklace that looks like it was purchased in a head shop but which I actually bought at Lord & Taylor in 1970 – so it’s definitely era-appropriate -  and have hung onto since.

I was going to make myself a picket sign, but I don’t want to lug it around. (‘What have you got?’ the answer uttered (sneered?) by Marlon Brando’s character in The Wild One when asked ‘What are you protesting?’)

Anyway, I suspect that most people won’t know I’m in costume, since what I’m wearing won’t be that much different than what I’d be wearing.

While I won’t be going door to door trick or treating, I will be giving out candy at my sister’s.

Her town of Salem is the epicenter of trick or treat, and my sister lives just off Salem Common. Given that Halloween is on a Friday this year, she can expect upwards of 300 ghosts and goblins Spider Mans and whatever the name is of the Frozen princess who has most favored princess status. So giving out candy is an all-hands effort there. (We all spell each other handing out candy, hanging out drinking wine, and hanging out keeping the dog calm. Jack does not especially approve of Halloween.)

While I am on handing-out duty, I will admit that I will occasionally put one of my hands in the goody basket, seeking out a Butter Finger.

I don’t know why.

Butter Finger is not my favorite candy ever.

But it sure is my favorite Halloween candy ever.

I will no doubt snag a little boxeen of Junior Mints while I’m at it, as well.

Another Halloween fav: M&Ms. (But that probably shouldn’t be on the Halloween list, as M&Ms are actually something I buy in real life, in real size.)

Anything chocolate is good, of course.

But there are a couple of must-avoids: Starbursts and Jolly Ranchers. (I used to put Skittles in that category, but actually have grown to like them. Not enough to choose them over a Butter Finger, but definitely requiring no avoidance dance.)

If I were going out, I’d be thrilled with Hershey’s miniatures, especially a Mr. Goodbar. With a Tootsie Pop (but not a Dum-Dum). With a York Peppermint Patty. With a (wrapped) Twizzler.

No thanks to an apple, a popcorn ball, a salty snack. It’s Halloween: Sugar ‘r Us.

No thanks to a Sugar Daddy or Turkish taffy. I have too many fillings to worry about yanking out.

Ah, Halloween.

While Halloween is supremely excellent in Salem, it is also pretty darned good in my neighborhood in downtown Boston.

Lots of folks decorate their homes and, because those homes are old and in a gaslight neighborhood, everything looks kind of spooky to begin with.

If the weather’s decent, especially given that it’s a weekend, the hordes will be out, thronging the streets. As my neighborhood is so concentrated, things will in some ways be even crazier than in Salem where the overall crowds will, no doubt, be larger.

Folks always say that, after a loved one dies, ‘the holidays are the hardest.’

I always have to laugh at this one.

My husband hated most holidays, and preferred not to celebrate any of them.

He put up with my hosting Christmas Eve, but after my aunt and my mother died, he pretty much stopped “doing” Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

So, as a matter of fact, the holidays won’t be the hardest.

But because it was all about kids, Jim very much enjoyed Halloween. For a number of years, when we lived in an upstairs flat in a massive  townhouse that had kids downstairs (who became like a niece and nephew to us), we’d go out with them.

After those guys grew too old for trick or treat, we began to ratchet back and forth, every other year, between Salem and The Hill (with a few stops in Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood along the way).

Which all makes Halloween the one holiday that will be a bit tough on me this year.

In Jim’s honor, I will see if I can snag one of his favorites: a Snickers bar or a box of Good ‘n Plenty.

And since part of Jim’s ashes were shot into space last Thursday, I suppose we might say that he will be going out – symbolically speaking – as an astronaut.

Whatever you’re going out (or staying in) as, Happy Halloween.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Note to Blake Francis: we don’t need this kind of marketing, and we probably don’t need Need, either

There once was a marketing day, long, long, ago, when even a pokey, crummy, obscure tech company could get an audience with a tech journalist.

You might be a pokey, crummy, obscure tech company, and you might well stay that way, but journalists couldn’t afford to completely ignore you because, on occasion, one of those pokey, crummy, obscure tech companies actually emerged from the slough of despond of underfunding and eroding tech edge, and became a large, crummy, non-obscure powerhouse.

There was something called a “road show”, and, when your pokey, crummy, obscure tech company had a product release, your PR firm would set up interviews/demos with all the leading tech publications and industry analysts – conveniently grouped in Silicon Valley, Boston/128, and the NY Metro (Long Island and Connecticut) – and you hit the road.

The goal was to get them to write something about you. And mostly they did.

You then paid the publication a lot o’ money to reproduce those articles on slick paper, so that you could use them as collateral. One of the reasons you spent time with the analysts was so that they’d agree to take a call from a journalist who was writing about you, and give them a quote.

No matter how banal and neutral, a quote from an analyst was a good thing. Maybe even better than a quote from a customer. (What did they know? Probably nothing if they were daffy enough to buy our products.)

Anyway, one of the reasons those analysts played nice was that they were hoping that you’d pay their firm a lot of money to read what they had to say about your product and those of your competitors, knowing that whatever bucket/quadrant they placed you in, you could spin it up into something positive. Hey, we all knew that the niche designation meant double-L loser, but what the hell.

That was the way the world work in the years B.I. – Before the Internet.

But with the Internet, marketing started to have less and less control over the message, and product information. So you were no longer such a great source for journalists.

Meanwhile, tech companies proliferated, so journalists could be a bit more selective. Analysts, too, got cannier at figuring out who was going to spend any money with them, and started spending less time with the cheapskates.

One of the marketing techniques that became popular once the journalists got pickier and choosier was to send out something that would their attention. Something in a box. Something that they’d open. Something that seemed like a present.

You only sent these to journalists, never to an analyst, who positioned themselves as above reproach and bribery.

One dimensional mailer I sent to a select group of journalists was a Jenga set. (It actually had a vague connection with the product messaging.) This campaign didn’t exactly stop the presses, but it did get us a couple of interviews (and stories) that we might not have grabbed otherwise.

But sometimes you can get carried away, attention grab-wise, as has happened when one Blake Francis decided to ply a bunch of tech journalists with a goody basket. One of the writers Francis was trying to pitch and woo was Kristen Brown of the SF Chronicle, who wrote:

A few weeks ago, a startup founder showed up in the lobby of The Chronicle after hours. He told me I hadn’t responded to his e-mails. And he wanted to get my attention.

He delivered his pitch, along with a wicker basket filled with sexually suggestive gifts: the sex toy [a vibrator], a tube of K-Y Jelly, raw oysters and Tequila.

It definitely got my attention. But it didn’t seem like his choice of swag had anything to do with his company, Need, a question-and-answer app where users anonymously ask each other for advice on everything from babysitters to boyfriends. (Source: SFGate)

A particularly tasteless thing to do, especially to a female journalist, given all the concern about sexism in the tech sector (which Brown gets into in her column.)

Anyway, Brown called Francis on it:

When I first questioned Francis about why he chose to send me oysters, Tequila and a vibrator, he responded that they were all products recommended on Need. Attached to each item was a tag featuring a screenshot of the app with the conversation in which the product in question was mentioned. Francis said that he had sent the same swag to other male and female journalists.

But people in the Need community have also recommended solar phone chargers and stores for buying high-quality letter paper, as well as doled out advice for first date spots in Berkeley. I pointed these things out to Francis and he recanted a bit. He told me the company just picked items they thought would “stand out.”

“In retrospect we did not use good judgment,” he said.

Retrospect, unfortunately, is usually too late.

Lack of judgment or not, I suspect that Blake Francis is just delighted with the press he’s gotten.

After all, a lot more folks have now heard of Need. So, mission accomplished.

Other than the fact that, now that we’ve heard of it, I suspect most of us are asking ourselves just what the hell we need Need for.

I mean, do we really need a place where we can ask a question  - and have our “friends” answer it anonymously - when we’re thinking of purchasing a dildo?

Need is a fun and easy way to exchange anonymous recommendations with friends. (Source: Need)

I’m all for easy, but I guess I’m just not much fun. And I will always trust a recommendation that’s got a name on it before I’d go with one from “A. Friend.”

Anyway, I checked out some of the sample questions Need was answering, and they seemed like just the sorts of questions that a) you ask a friend non-anonymously (as in “any thoughts on where we should honeymoon”) and/or b) search online for (as in “I have a bloating/gas problem”).

I just do not see any value at all here.

Then again,  I’m shocked by ads for Angie’s List that have people touting it as a place to find a pediatrician for their newborn.

Sad commentary on society that you wouldn’t have anyone in your life you could ask for a recommendation for something of such importance.

It will be interesting to see whether Need ends up being yet another pokey, crummy, obscure tech company, or whether someone decides that they’re all that and a bag of chips and gobbles them up for a couple of billion.

Why don’t I go over to Need and ask?

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A shout out to Music Maker. (Let their voices be heard!)

In this day and age, it’s hard at times not to fall into the trap that equates artistic greatness and talent with financial success. The trap that tells us that “the market” (that brutal, unrelenting, but inherently – ahem -  impartial beast) will somehow discover all there is to discover and reward it appropriately.

To some degree, the market does do a lot of weeding out for us. Really terrible actors will generally stop getting good roles, no matter how many casting couches they fall onto. Really dreadful, wooden artists whose works fall flat on the canvas, emitting no spark of the divine, of coherence, emotion, skill or wit, won’t end up on the walls of MOMA for long. Really rotten musicians won’t sell out the big arenas year after year, and the purely manufactured hokum acts won’t tend to have staying power.

Not every artist will be to everyone’s taste, and we can all point to plenty of those with less than stunning talent who make it big, whose most stunning talent appears to be making a stunning amount of money without having anything any modicum of real talent.


Not that I can’t come up with well-populated lists of folks who’ve made it big who I don’t think have all that much to offer, talent-wise - and maybe because I am a reader-writer, my longest sub-list is that of writers  - but the majority of those who “make it” in some sort of artistic, literary, whatever endeavor are not what my father used to refer to as “no talent bums.”

The converse is no so true.

The only great writers aren’t the anointed ones with seven-figure book deals and full page ads in The New Yorker. The only legitimate artist isn’t Jeff Koons. And just because you’re not selling out arena shows doesn’t mean you’re not a great musician.

If you don’t trust my word, look and listen no further than this video, from PBS News the other evening:

Although it looks like you're going to the full show, clicking on the video should theoretically get you to the segment on the Music Maker Relief Foundation, a.k.a., Music Maker, . If that doesn't work for you - or if the segment starts in mid-stream - this link will take you to the page where Music Maker has posted it.. (Between the app I use to write my blog, and Blogger, where it's published, there doesn't seem to be a clean way to successfully embed a video. I've been crazing around with HTML, and it kinda/sorta works...)

Anyway, I know about the Music Maker through my brother-in-law, who has served on its board for the last several years.
Music Maker is a non-profit:
…founded to preserve the musical traditions of the South by directly supporting the musicians who make it, ensuring their voices will not be silenced by poverty and time…
Since our founding in 1994, we have assisted and partnered with over 300 artists, issued over 150 CDs and reached over a million people with live performance in over 40 states and 17 countries around the globe.
Music Market is the life’s work of Tim and Denise Duffy, who have devoted their considerable talents and energies to the organization for the past twenty years.

Yes, Music Maker does plenty of handouts – some of those they help our so poor, old, and infirm that they really just need a case of Ensure and the heating bill paid – but it’s model is really to get the artists they support to do paid gigs.

Early on in their 20 years of supporting their artists, the Duffys learned that, while these folks “lived in abject poverty…when we asked how we could help, they didn't ask for money, they wanted a gig.”

The Duffys’ experience evolved into the Music Maker model, a model based on their realization that:
…it was easier to help an artist earn $500 than to raise $500 to give away, and the earning usually involved an artist doing what they love best: performing. Better yet, this most often results in a crowd watching the show, keeping the art form vibrant and our culture enriched.
Which is not to say that they still can’t use flat-out donations, which can be made here. Better yet, you can shop their catalog and support their musicians directly here.

I am a big fan of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, an incredibly talented group of musicians who are on the younger side of the Music Maker catalog age distribution. They are also not among the abjectly poor and needy musicians that Music Maker more generally supports. But they are dedicating their careers, and their extraordinary talents, to roots music. And if there’s a more beautiful, poignant and  soulful song than “Leaving Eden” out there, I’ve yet to hear it.

With Music Maker, Tim and Denise Duffy are doing something so meaningful and important.
The world needs more of this than we do yet another twerking and tweeting Beyoncé wannabe, that’s for sure.

Maybe they never get to sell-out the stadium. Maybe they never get to pay the NFL for the privilege of doing the Super Bowl half-time show. Maybe they never get the glitz and glamour.

But how wonderful to be reminded that there are so many brilliant, talented, dedicated musicians out there. Sure makes listening worthwhile.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Pumpkin rager

Things have pretty much calmed down, but last week the biggest dealio on the local news was the Pumpkin Fest riots in Keene, New Hampshire.

Keene, for those who aren’t familiar with it, is a quite pleasant little city. I’ve never spent any time there, but I’ve driven through a few occasions, as it’s on the way to Bellows Falls, VT, where my husband hailed from. (We almost stayed in Keene once, after a pre-Internet fiasco with a B&B we’d booked in Vermont. When we rolled in on our way back from a nice stay in Burlington, we found that our B&B – advertised as ‘walking distance to town’ – was miles off the beaten path, and at the end of a long, unlit dirt road that included passage on a rickety old covered bridge. Once we got there, we realized that the scenario had ‘nervous breakdown’ written all over it, and decided to head back to Boston. But we almost stopped in Keene for the night before deciding that what we really wanted was our own bed and a double order of dun-dun noodles from Mary Chung’s.)

Among its other attributes, Keene is the home to Keene State College, which I take it is also known as Keene State Party School. It’s apparently been that way for quite a while. I read somewhere that, way back in the nineties, in those quaint pre-social media days when students threw keggers, not ragers, the school started shutting down over the weekend  closest to St. Patrick’s Day, when – as every New Englander knows – the green-beer induced vomit just spews.

Besides being the home to Keene State, Keene had for years hosted a Pumpkin Festival, showing off things like the most carved pumpkins ever, and featuring family fun.

Well, students being students, they wanted in on some of that fun, only their fun would be away-from-the-parents style fun.

For the last few years, Pumpkin Fest has been drawing bigger and bigger crowds of drunken 20-somethings. But this weekend was over the top. A few square blocks near the college were filled with thousands of people chanting obscenities, tearing down street signs, lighting fires. SWAT Teams marched through the streets in Kevlar, shooting pepper balls, tear gas and foam rubber bullets. (Source: NPR)

The mayhem associated with Pumpkin Fest – thanks to Keens State students and their pals – has been escalating to the degree  that when Homeland Security gave them the opportunity to grab on to an armored personnel carrier, the Keene town fathers seized the chance. One of their stated reasons was to ensure that they could adequately police the Pumpkin Fest, which got the attention – and raised the mirth level – of Steven Colbert, among others.

I promise NOT to off on a tangent about the dangers of militarizing the police force, and whether every community needs a SWAT team (if you have one, you’ll use one, which is not necessarily a good thing). These are things that I’m completely in terror of.

In any case, I really don’t think that hundreds of drunken, out of control, imbecilic college kids – even though they’re hurling bottles at cops, starting fires, and turning over cars – need to be taken down by a tank. (Shields, batons, and plenty of arrests, on the other hand.)

But riot these a-holes did. (The kids, not the cops.)

And, since there’s no such thing as a par-tay unless there’s a public video made of it and posted, arrests are now starting to be made of those who hurled bottles, etc.

But just as the riot can safely said to be alcohol-fueled, it’s also likely that social media played an accelerant role:

…city and state officials are laying at least some of the blame on social media, and they've named one small party-hosting company. 

That party-hosting company, one FinnRage, is the “brain” child of a Massachusetts college student, one Trevor Finney, who, it seems, desperately wants to be an entrepreneur. And what with things like selling cookies in the dorm at 2 a.m., or typing/writing papers for $$$, so old-school, so done, young Master Finney looked to the Girls Gone Wild experience and figured that this model could well be his entry into the marvelous world of fame and fortune.

So he set up a business, FinnaRage TV, that runs campus parties. Part of the package is that he shows up to film them, making sure that the partygoers get to show all the world just how raging cool they are. So far, he’s been the host with the most for free, but he hopes to turn it into a lucrative (of course) business. After which, I suppose, at some point he grows up.

In the weeks leading up to Pumpkin Fest, FinnaRage promoted a party with a poster showing a scantily clad woman standing in a field of pumpkins. FinnaRage TV traffics in plenty of suggestive content. Their website is full of videos of people chugging beer, grinding on the dance floor, and in one instance, smoking a bong through a gas mask.

Aspiring entrepreneur Finney doesn’t think any of what happeend at Keene is his fault:

"We were put in the middle," says Trevor Finney, the 20-year-old owner of FinnaRage TV. "I got shot by a rubber bullet. Like…I…this is the last thing that I wanted."

Wah, wah, wah

"FinnaRage is about having a good time. It’s about the unique experience that we bring," says Finney. 

I suspect that it will be hard for anyone to make FinnaRage culpable for the Keene Pumpkin Fest Riot, even though he may have given the party riot a running start.

But it’s probably a good thing that Trevor Finney wants to be an entrepreneur.

Unless he takes down his website, makes his Twitter feed private, and does something to improve the results when you search on his name, this kid is not exactly helping his chances of getting a job with a bank or insurance company. That is unless the hiring managers are no longer prigs, but are now all rager wannabes.

Not that he would want to be some lackey, some management trainee, some no name, no fame no one who ekes out a decent albeit humble existence, and never gets the splash car, the fancy pad, the media buzz, the mega-blunt…

Not that there weren’t drunken debacles when I was in college. But the riots in those days actually had a bit more purpose than putting drunken narcissism on display.

And while Trevor Finney’s figuring out how to cash in – surely this has all put FinnaRage on the map, and schools outside of New England will start clamoring for his services – I don’t suppose that the admissions yield at Keene State is going to be all that great this year. Not if those boring old non-raging parents have anything to do with it.

Yet another reason to be glad I’m not young anymore…


Monday, October 27, 2014

You can get anything you want, at Alice’s Breastaurant (excepting Alice)

Until I came across an article about Twin Peaks, I had scant awareness of a restaurant category informally referred to as “breastaurants”.

Sure, I had heard of Hooters. There used to be on in downtown Boston, in fact – not surprisingly, near the TD/Boston Garden, where the Bruins and Celtics play. Nor surprisingly, it didn’t last.

The rap on New England is that “our girls” are just not as sexy and pretty as the ones in locations where Hooters and the like seem to flourish. And it is true that we don’t tend to go in for the big hair, gleaming teeth, fake tan, beauty queen look. No, New England beauties are more apt to be the bluestocking, madam librarian types. (You have, of course, seen enough old movies to know what madam librarian looks like when she takes off those glasses and lets down her hair.)

But I like to think that breastaurants don’t succeed in these parts to the same degree they do elsewhere is that we are, in general, a more advanced, refined and high-minded civilization, where our lusty young men want to get to know a lusty young woman for her mind. (Of course, just because I like to think this does not in any way, shape, or form mean that it’s true.)

Maybe breastaurants haven’t taken off here because nine-months out of the year, whatever skimpy outfits the waitresses wore would have to be covered in fleece.

Anyway, since they’re not all that prevalent in our landscape, I was only vaguely aware that the breastaurant represented an entire eating and dining category – similar to the sports bar (of which this area has a surfeit), and that Hooters has, in fact, become one of the tamer variations on the team, their once provocative costumes were now the category’s equivalent of the Lanz nightgown. And that Hooters has sunk so low, breastaurant-wise, that it is now considered a family place to dine which, I guess, puts it in competition with just about every other mediocre chain restaurant out there.

The newcomer is Twin Peaks (ho, ho – or is it no longer okay to say ‘ho, ho’?), which sounds like a complete an utter throwback, where:

Before each shift …managers line up waitresses and grade them on their looks. The women get points for hair, makeup, slenderness, and the cleanliness of their uniforms: fur-lined boots, khaki hot pants, and skimpy plaid tops that accentuate their cleavage. (Source: Business Week)

All very important in the breastaurant biz, or as it is also known “the attentive service sector.” (What else might be in that category? Pole dancers? “Escorts”? Home health aides?)

For my first waitressing job, our uniform was a prim white short-sleeved shirt with a pleated front, a clip on dark brown bowtie, a dowdy, knee-length dark brown polyester skirt, and an orange cotton apron. We were issued one uniform – which most likely had already been worn by someone who’d quit – which (it goes without saying) had to be washed every night. We also had to wear a hairnet and lipstick, and had to make sure that our name tag (first name  only) was positioned far enough above the left breast so that no wisenheimer would ask ‘what’s the other one named? Ho, ho! (It was definitely okay to say ho-ho back in my Big Boy waitressing days.)

A senior waitress inspected us for hairnet, lipstick, and nametag violations, but there was no point system. (The article doesn’t say what the point system at Twin Peaks translates into: a better station? a raise? the possibility of accumulating too many demerits and being fired?)

Anyway, at Big Boy, if it weren’t for the lipstick, we could have been mistaken for postulants in some order of nuns with a motherhouse in the Southwest. But we were a family restaurant – underscored by not serving any alcohol – and, while this was in the age of the mini-skirt and hot pants, restaurants did not for the most part specialize in sexy waitresses. If you wanted sexy, you went to a bar or to the Playboy Club and ogle the bunnies.

Needless to say, bluestocking little old me wasn’t likely to find work in a place that went in for sexy. I was young enough, for sure. But other than that…

While at Big Boy, most of the waitresses were young – certainly all under thirty when I was there when I was 18 and 19 – when I worked at Durgin-Park and the Union Oyster House, the average waitress was probably in her late fifties, with a range from twenty (me) to eighty (Bertha, Flo, Gussie).

Fortunately, we didn’t have to push any cutesie-named dishes. (Big Boy did have a sandwich called the Brawny Lad, but that was about it.) But at Twin Peaks, the menu is pretty much wink-wink, nudge-nudge:

Their job, between serving sports-bar fare with names such as “well-built sandwiches” and “smokin’ hot dishes,” is to beguile the mostly male customers, flirting to get them to empty their wallets. They may also have to fend off patrons who’ve washed down too many of the house beers, including the Dirty Blonde or the Knotty Brunette.

Ah, the wit level. If I weren’t so old and creaky I’d be ROFLMAO.

Meanwhile, Twin Peaks is laughing all the way to the bank, and last year was “the fastest-growing chain the in the U.S., with $165 million sales.”

Some of those $165 million in sales are due to pressuring the clientele into upsizing their orders.

When someone orders a beer, they’re asked:

“Do you want the man size or the girl size?”

Which is further described as a “little, 10-ounce baby beer.”

Aw, hell. What red-blooded ‘merican he-man would order a girl size baby beer? Those are for lefty girlie-men who probably carry murses, and who more than likely prefer Chardonnay to a Dirty Blonde, anyway.

While Twin Peaks reputedly has better food than the standard chain fare, industry analysts say that it’s the waitresses that are making the difference. (Twin Peaks restaurants on average gross more than Hooters, or another breastaurant competitor, the Tilted Kilt.)

The chain gets the waitresses discounts at gyms, tanning joints, and nail salons. It gives them tips on styling their hair and using makeup and offers them a diet menu to keep them from gaining weight. The best performers are invited to pose, in some cases topless, for the annual Twin Peaks calendar. DeWitt calls his employees “weapons of mass distraction.”

On the one hand, the money’s probably a lot more than what a waitress could make at a Big Boy. On the other hand, the waitresses have to put with degrading comments and drunken advances from a bunch of yahoos.

Not that I was ever a Twin Peaks kind of gal, but, looking back on a post-waitressing career that has been based on my intelligence, I do believe that  - those ancient Durgin-Park waitresses aside – work based on something other your looks has a lot more staying power.

Maybe the Twin Peaks waitresses go on to “real” careers, and view putting up with a couple of years of dimwits ordering Dirty Blondes and making lewd comments to put themselves through college as worth it. It does beat being a lap dancer or a call girl.


Anyway, I was wondering what type of young woman (beyond one who’s attractive and busty) goes in for breastaurant waitressing, and I came across this line from one of the calendar girls for one of the chains, who in her statement on her hobbies wrote:

I love bungee jumping and making pottery with my hamsters.

I choose to think that this is one young woman with an excellent sense of humor. On the other hand, if this is for real, I guess New England just doesn’t have many breastaurants not just because of our bluestocking lookers, but because of the absolute dearth of bungee jumpers who throw pots with their hamsters.

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Friday, October 24, 2014

I’d walk a mile for a Camel. And you might have to if you worked for RJR.

I am old enough to remember when most people smoked.

My father smoked, as did all of my uncles.

My father had stopped smoking for a long while, but I distinctly remember a Labor Day cookout – late 1950’s, well before the Surgeon General’s Report that finally linked smoking and cancer – when, at the urging of my father’s buddies, he took up smoking again. “Hey, Al, just have one. Just to be social.”

In retrospect, it was kind of like pushing a drink on an AA member, and it was enough to start my father smoking again, which he did for another decade or so. (He quit for the final time when he became ill with kidney disease, which is what killed him. He never developed any lung problems that I know of, but smoking sure didn’t help him out any. When he was on his death bed, he had to ask my Uncle Charlie not to smoke in his hospital room, as it really bothered him. Just the idea of someone smoking in a hospital room…unimaginable today.)

There was one upside to my father’s smoking: we always knew what to give him for Christmas: an ashtray, a carton of Luckies (later, Marlboros).

There was less smoking on the female side of the equation, but my mother had a couple of friends who were smokers: Jane, Dodo, Marge, Sue - and the lipstick marks on their cigarette butts always intrigued me. The women who smoked made smoking, and adult life, seem dangerous, sexy, glamorous. All the things my mother wasn’t.

I was never much of a smoker myself.

I did smoke when I was a waitress at Union Oyster House and Durgin-Park, as all “the girls” did. Taking a cigarette break was something of a sacred, inviolable ritual. If you were staring out into space for a couple of minutes, the head waitress could holler at you to come do something or other: restock the napkins, help bus a table. But if you were smoking – a defined break of three minutes – you could holler back “Just let me finish my fucking cigarette”. And that was good enough.

My roommate and a couple of our fellow waitress buddies (Marilyn and Pam) would stow packs of Newports or Marlboros in a cubbyhole between dining rooms, shared packs. I don’t remember how we replenished our supply- we must have taken turns buying – but we always had some smokes on hand.

For a couple of years after my waitress days ended, I smoked occasionally, mostly if I were out on the town having drinks with friends, or at a party. Wherever two or more smokers were gathered, I’d have a cigarette.

After I stopped entirely – when I finished B-school – it was a couple of years before I lost the urge entirely.

I’d never been a heavy smoker to begin with, so I can imagine just how addictive cigarettes can be.

While my smoking life was playing out, fewer and fewer people smoked, and there were fewer and fewer places where folks could smoke.

At first, the smokers were separated off.

But as anyone who sat in the row in back of the smoking section on an airplane could tell you, that – cough, cough – didn’t work.

Nor did it work to have a smoking section in a restaurant that wasn’t totally walled off from the non-smokers. Half the time, you’d be sitting in non-smoking at a table next to one with smokers. (I always liked it when it was a mixed group of smokers and non-smokers, and the smokers would blow their smoke your way to keep it out of the nostrils and lungs of their dining companions.)

Over time, we started to take it for granted that there’d be no one smoking on public transportation, in restaurants, bars, and theaters – at least around here.

Once, while on business travel, my flight was diverted from Charlotte to Winston-Salem, and I was stuck in a waiting room for a couple of hours while a storm passed. And I do mean stuck. The security people had already left for the day, so we could not leave the waiting area and, say, go out and take a breath of springtime.

And if you think that the Winston-Salem airport had any non-smoking section in its waiting area, you are most certainly mistaken.

Once I began my business career, I don’t remember much smoking in the office, but there must have been some going on. The first company I worked for after B-school held a wine, beer, and junk food party after work every Friday, and some people smoked grass. So I’m guessing folks also smoked cigarettes.

At Wang, there were smoking rooms on each floor, where the smoking cubicle-denizens could puff away. If you had a closed door office, you were allowed to smoke in it.

But over time these sorts of accommodations to smokers gradually gave way to forcing smokers to stand 15 feet away from the entrance to the building when they wanted a cig. Nowadays, you don’t even see all that much of that activity. (Although on occasion, when walking by my brother’s office – he works not far from where I live – I run across him standing in front of his building having a smoke. Honestly, how someone as intelligent as my brother can continue to smoke…Wow. Just wow.)

There have apparently been hold-out office environments where smoking is still tolerated.

And one of them, up until now, has been R J Reynolds or, as they are now known, Reynolds American.

But come the first of the year, even they won’t be allowing smoking at work.

Camel cigarette maker Reynolds American Inc. is snuffing out smoking in its offices and buildings.

Beginning next year, the use of cigarettes, cigars or pipes will no longer be permitted in the company’s offices, conference rooms and elevators. Lighting up already is prohibited on factory floors and in cafeterias. (Source: AP in Huffington Post)

They will be setting up indoor smoking areas, probably like the ghastly ones at Wang back in the day, or like the even more ghastly ones that were in airports for a while. (You didn’t want to walk anywhere near them.)

And Reynolds will still let users of smokeless tobacky products use. So those who want to vape on Reynolds Vuse electronic cigs, or dip into “pouches of tobacco called snus (pronounced “snoose”) will still be okay.

But I guess all those sons and daughters of Reynolds employees will have to come up with something else to give Dad for Christmas. A carton of Camels won’t do.

Maybe a few packets of chewing gum?

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Just us chickens. (What the cluck?)

Well, I took one look at this picture and thought, “Uh oh.”

Just us chickens

My first thought was that we now know why the 1957 chicken crossed the road. It was to get away from the 2005 edition.


In my mind’s eye, I could see the 2014 version, and it was the size of short-legged ostrich.

Just looking at this picture, I told myself this can’t be good, this bulked up specimen has to be pumped full of hormones. Maybe the average chicken has to be cooped up in a tiny little spot (vs. free range) to avoid ‘roid rage incidents. (Side note: the USDA bans the use of hormones, so we really wouldn’t have to worry about chicken size in the hormonal sense. Still, who could look at that picture and not ask what the cluck?)

And, then, because I’m a big believer that, most times, one word is worth a thousand pictures, I read the article, where I learned that today’s broilers got bigger because they were bred that way. Nothing artificial about it. Chicken farmers started moving away from the paltry poultry of 1957, and started focusing on the bigger the better.

Poultry scientists in Canada identically raised three different strains of chicken: the skinnymalinks 1957 chicken of my childhood, a mo’ bigger 1978 strain, and the robust 2005 Ross 308 breed. The cared for each strain in the same way:

"We fed them exactly the same things, so we did not provide hormones," lead author Dr. Martin Zuidhof, associate professor of agricultural science at the University of Alberta, told the CBC. "The only difference that was part of our study treatments was the genetics." (Source: Huffington Post.)

The result showed that:

…today's chickens are bigger simply because they were bred to be bigger.

Go back to your lives, citizens. Nothing to worry about here. That chicken may be four times larger than its peer, but it’s all okay.

Nonetheless, I do worry a bit about chickens, which just don’t seem to taste as chickeny as those scrawny sweet birds of my youth. This may just be my imagination. Or maybe it’s because my mother utilized all parts of a chicken (including – gag! – gizzards), while I’m a white meat kind of gal. So maybe her soups were more flavorful than mine because she kept all the gunk in, including stuff like bones, skin and fat. Whereas I get the boneless and skinless variety, and hack out all the fatty bits. Then I wonder why I have to sit there, saltshaker in hand…

Although the Canadian scientists assure us that there’s no problem with eating big chickens, the picture is still scary.

At least, the scientists assure us, the chickens haven’t been altered over the years to addict us, like so many fast food and bev items that have both been supersized and gunked up with “enhancers” that keep us going back to the trough bag for more.

A couple of years ago, while taking a break on the NY State Thruway, I stopped at a rest area that had – among other ghastly choices – a Roy Rogers.

I didn’t end up eating anything at this rest stop – I generally wait until I hit the Massachusetts border to have lunch, since the Mass Pike has a couple of Fresh Cities, which sure beat the Uncle Roys and Arbys that NY offers. But I did notice that they were selling a gallon-sized soda.

Say what?

Once you finish your big gulp, do you use it as an in-car toilet?

Anyway, at least with chickens there’s nothing to be afraid of.

No harm, no fowl.

Buk buk buk buk bukka it is!

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