Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Ladies' Night Out



I have never been to a Hooters Restaurant.  Hey, my eyes are up here. And that’s why I’ve never been to Hooters. Just say the name and you lose eye contact. The name, the uniforms. There are just too many distractions, I think. I mean, I’ve really never been to Hooters, so all I’ve got to go on are the t.v. commercials and the billboards, as well as the many Hooters jokes I’ve heard over the years. They’re funny in small doses, but it’s not the kind of restaurant experience I want.   I’ve never made an issue out of it.  I just don’t go there. 
      
          A few weeks ago, I was on an outing with three lady friends. One in her 80s, one in her 70s, the other in her 60s and me at 50-something.  We planned a trip to a new museum because we knew our husbands would never want to go to anything cultural and we wanted to sneak in a ladies’ night dinner too.  So after our 50-minute tour of the newly-opened Chocolate Museum, we set out to find a restaurant nearby.  We were in the I-Drive tourist area and traffic was heavy.
          Just ahead, there was a new building with a big sign: Dick’s Last Resort, Eat, Drink, Laugh.  We pulled in.

At the door of the new restaurant, stood a big statue of a fat, bald man with hairy legs wearing the middle-aged uniform of a Florida tourist:  flowered shirt, Bermuda shorts, white socks and sandals. That was Dick. 


Just inside the door, two young ladies in shorts and t-shirts with blonde, black and blue hair greeted us. Their tattooed arms and legs showed off all the other colors in the Crayola box. I still can’t believe how many tattoos they had on their skinny young limbs.  I guess we were still in museum mode because we were drawn in to this exotic habitat by these colorful hostesses.  Or maybe we were influenced by the traffic accident we had just passed. No matter how bad it might be, we just couldn’t look away.  So we followed them.

         Walking through Dick’s, we noticed the walls were covered with slogans.  This is the place yer mama warned you about.   Dick’s is fun for all and all for fun. 
The customers seemed to be enjoying themselves. Parties sat together at long picnic tables. Most of the guests were wearing giant paper hats and everyone had on a bib despite the fact that there were no babies or lobsters in sight. We thought it was a bit strange, but heck, we wanted to try a new place.

          One of the tattooed blue-haired girls took us to a table past the gift shop of Dick’s Souvenir Merchandise. We could see bumper stickers that read I Heart Dick’s, There’s a Little Dick in Us All, and Honk if you like Dick’s. It was at this point, that my mature friends and I caught on to the theme of this dining establishment. We were at the Hooters of the Bizarro World, the anti-Hooters.  In fact, you can even buy a t-shirt at Dick’s that says, They have Hooters, we have Dick’s. 

Believe it or not, even though Dick’s Last Resort Restaurant has been around for 25 years and has 15 locations, none of us had ever heard of it. So I did some research.

          There have been no official boycotts of Dick’s.   Apparently, Dick’s offends no one and feeds many, although Dick’s may be a one-and-done kind of place.  Absolutely all of their locations are right in the heart of the entertainment district of tourist towns.   Dick’s own marketing research says that 70% of their customers are out-of-towners.   I think tourists must see the Eat, Drink and Laugh sign and get sucked in to Dick’s for a one-night stand like we did. 

           Due to the locations, Dick’s will never be a neighborhood place like Cheers.   Everybody doesn’t even care to know your name, unless of course your name is Peter, Willy, Johnson or Dick. And even if it’s not, your waitress is likely to call you a Dick at some point during your visit.


          At the Orlando Dick’s, our waitress came over, introduced herself and clued us in on the service.   It’s insulting.   Really.   The wait staff is trained to insult the customers.  One look at the four of us and she had her opening line, “Ladies, turn up your hearing aids. You’re at Dick’s.”    We laughed, but we heard her loud and clear without hearing aids and ordered glasses of the house cabernet, which was listed under the Fancy Pants Drinks.


          On the other side of the plastic-coated beverage menu were the 45-ounce margaritas.   There was also a variety of mixed drinks served in Dick’s Souvenir Nut Cup and some blended frozen concoctions called Stiffies.


          In the blinking, light-up shot glasses, there are combos with provocative names. There’s one that combines coffee liquor, Baileys and whipped cream. You’re supposed to drink it with your hands behind your back and you can’t use your teeth.   At the Dick’s in Washington, D.C., I think it’s called the Monica Lewinsky.  At Dick’s 14 other locations, it’s simply called the B. J. Turn up your hearing aids, I said, “It’s called the B.J.”
About five years ago Dick’s tried to rise up and penetrate the European market.   They opened a Dick’s in London but those humorless English stiffs didn’t bite and Dick’s pulled out.   So there are no more Dick’s in Europe.  It’s just a crazy American thing with Dick’s getting bigger all the time. According to the company’s growth plan, there are more Dick’s still to come.
          On the other hand, Hooters already has many worldwide locations, but just one in England, in the town of Nottingham, home to Robin Hood, two universities and two professional football teams. There are occasionally local protests, but those are dismissed as random outbursts of radical feminism.
          The dinner menu at Dick’s is written on a chalkboard on the wall.   They have a chicken breast dish called The Dolly, named after Dolly Parton.   Hey, my eyes are up here.   All the entrees at Dick’s are loaded with meat and there are lots of balls on the menu: big barbeque balls, crabby balls, cheesy balls, you get the idea. Dick’s has balls.
          As we interpreted the menu, it occurred to us that something wasn’t right.    The four of us wanted a ladies’ night out but we knew we should not have been enjoying Dick’s without our husbands.   So we finished our Fancy Pants wine and politely walked past the Certified Dick’s t-shirts and on to dinner at that popular brew house down the street.
          You know, the one.  It has over 50 handcrafted beers and that huge menu of 120 items. They make their own root beer and they have a dessert called  Pizookie’s.
          Turn up your hearing aids.   After we had drinks at Dick’s, we had dinner at B.J.s.  And we had a ball.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Naked Pictures of Nixon

           Okay, so the title of this piece does not conjure up a pretty picture. Believe me, I know. I’ve thought about naked pictures of our 37th President for several months now, ever since my husband brought them to my attention. But all I can really see are those black and white pencil sketch cartoons, like in the New Yorker and even in those, Nixon is at least covered with a towel. I can’t imagine real naked pictures of Richard Millhouse Nixon. You try it. See, it’s not easy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him without a suit and tie on. He’s just not that guy for me. Now Robert Redford, no problem.  Those naked pictures I’ve seen in my dreams many times. But not Richard Nixon.  

           Little know fact here:  Before she became Mrs. Nixon, Pat Ryan once worked as an x-ray technician.  Personally, I think the ability to see through a man’s body probably helped her in the most intimate moments of her marriage. Either that or just shutting off the lights.  If I ever see naked pictures of Nixon, I fear I’ll never be able to un-see them.




            Here’s how this Nixon scandal came into my life:
   
            My husband is a restless sleeper. He worries about everything and he takes those worries to bed. He’s sought help for this problem from his doctors. And when I say doctors, I mean all of them: the general practitioner, the gastroenterologist, the urologist, his dentist, anyone with a diploma on their wall who can provide him with an “educated” answer. He’s even sought help from friends and neighbors with the same problem, which is, “just as good as going to a doctor and it’s free.” God forbid he should trust his wife who just tells him to go to bed at a reasonable hour and get up with the sun.
   
When the “doctors” advise him to take supplements like melatonin, he’s a great patient, always ready to pop another pill. He also believes in the “all natural” cures, which is why he’s such an easy mark for all those t.v. doctors. I point out to him that dirt is "all natural," but he doesn’t make the connection.
   
When we had our bathroom remodeled, I had the contractor cut a huge medicine cabinet in the wall behind a full-length mirror. It’s 16 inches wide and 5 feet tall. I thought we could share it. But no, it houses all of his supplements from those t.v. experts:  Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil, Dr. Suess.  One pill, two pill, red pill, blue pill.
   
            The real doctors who tell him to change his lifestyle to cure his sleep problems, are talking to a brick wall. He stays up watching old movies on television or surfing sports sites on the internet until 2 or 3 a.m. So he sleeps until noon. We have a DVR. He can watch television on any schedule. As far as I know, the internet is pretty much a 24-hour service too.  Sometimes I think he just doesn’t want to change because he likes breaking the story.  I watch plenty of news.  I’m also a speed reader, so it takes a lot to get the story before me and I think he derives a great deal of pleasure from finding something out before I do. During baseball season this year, many of those stories happened at 2 a.m., usually after a west coast Yankees game and they involved a Yankee player named Alex playing, or not playing, because he was, or was not, suspended for taking, or not taking, supplements which are, or are not, illegal or all natural under major league baseball rules. None of this is need-to-know stuff for me. But he likes it and he wants to share, regardless of my REM cycle or my early morning schedule of dog walking and pickleball.  (That supplement thing between him and Alex is mere coincidence.) It’s not always Yankees news I get at 2 a.m.  Sometimes it’s the death of a celebrity or the birth of a 2-headed animal. A lot of news seems to happen at 2 a.m. eastern standard time.
         

           When my husband finally comes to bed, he usually has nightmares that are loosely related to the last thing he saw on t.v. or on some web site. Many of them are violent and cause him to toss, turn and yell in a clear voice.  No mumbling. I get every word.
                                          
            When he yells, “Adrian, Adrian,” I know he’s not calling out for an old girlfriend. He just watched Rocky.

                                  
            After an old John Wayne movie, I hear, “Giddyup, bang, bang, pilgrim.”  And yes, he really says “bang, bang” and holds his finger like a gun.  The first time that happened, I was hysterical.  I couldn’t believe he was actually doing that in his sleep.
                            
            Since then, there’s been the Clint Eastwood movie outbursts:  “Ask yourself, do I feel lucky? Do you Punk? Bang, bang!”
      
There’s almost always a “bang, bang!”  This from a man who’s never even shot a gun. 
      
Many nights, he automatically goes into the guest room to spare me from these outbursts. And I appreciate that.
      
He was not in the guest room on Nixon Night.  That’s what we call it now, Nixon Night.  He came to bed late again. He tossed and turned a little. I had nowhere to send him. My brother’s family of 5 was visiting and the 2 guest rooms were full. So was the couch.  When I could tell he was about to start yelling, I shook him to wake him up so I could get to sleep again.  That usually works.  Not this time. He looked right me, as if he were fully awake and yelled, “Naked pictures of Nixon, naked pictures of Nixon.”  He woke up the whole house and we all wanted to know:  What about the naked pictures of Nixon?  What about the naked pictures of Nixon?  The late night movie that brought on his outburst was All the President’s Men.  I’ve seen it a thousand times.  There are no naked pictures of Nixon in the Watergate scandal. There are some seedy lines in the movie involving Deep Throat and Katherine Graham’s ta-tas, but Nixon remains fully clothed in all pictures.  So what was he thinking and why?  He dreamed up naked pictures of Nixon just like I dreamed up my naked pictures of Robert Redford.
     
            Melatonin? Sleep?  He says he’s not getting enough.  And I’m not exactly sure what he means by that.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Cradle to Grave Bell Curve

     Ah, The Bell Curve.  I think I remember studying it in school.    I don't remember what I thought about it or why.  Looking it up today, I see that the first few Google pages of online sites devoted to it reference a study in the mid 1990s. Well, I was out of school by then.  So now I really don't know where I remember it from.   Maybe I'm confusing it with playing the bells in music class, or drawing bells in art class.  Whatever.

     Why am I even thinking about this?  It's all I'm thinking about these days because I've discovered a new application for that Bell Curve and I'm going to call it The Cradle to Grave Bell Curve.  It takes into account a person's age and the amount of time expected to address the needs of that person at a certain age.  Simply put, if you draw the bell and assign ages to the up and down slopes, my observation has been that the same things that happen on the up-slope will happen on the down-slope.  Stay with me here.  I'll clear it up.

     Babies want it NOW, or they cry.  Toddlers want it NOW, or they scream.  Young children want it NOW or they throw tantrums.  Teenagers want it NOW or they rebel, regardless of the consequences that often result in the parental-infliction of pain.

     
     Then it all tapers off.  Young adults have the idea that it's all just beginning.  There's plenty of time for them to get a good job, find a partner, raise a family.  We discover the blissful feeling of procrastination.  Tomorrow is when things will happen.  There's no good reason to do everything today.  Then, it all changes again when old age hits.  And it hits hard.

     Currently, I'm in a household with an 86-year-old and a 90-year-old and it's fascinating (and exhausting) to observe the down-slope of my Cradle to Grave Bell Curve.

     No matter what he needs, 86-year-old Dad wants it NOW!  Ice cream, cookies, coffee, a pen, a napkin, whatever.  If it doesn't come now, he quickly asks what's wrong with me.  (And that's the only thing he does quickly these days.)

     Each time I explain that nothing's wrong.  I'm just busy.  But he keeps asking.  He doesn't get it.  Neither would a baby on the up-slope.

     My experience with children is limited to my nephews and the  children of friends.  But I can still draw the parallel on the Bell. 

     When I tell 90-year-old Aunt Sophie we're going out to lunch, she gets her jacket on and stands at the door, even if I just said, "We're going out to lunch in 20 minutes."  She doesn't want to be late.  And she'll stand at the door waiting.  Of course, seeing that, I  rush around to leave NOW!  (Is she using psychology on me? Nah.  Hmm?)

     I'm trying to be more understanding.  After all, I'll be there some day (if someone doesn't shoot me in frustration first).  I'm sure Dad and Auntie somehow soothed my demands when I was very young.  So I feel the need to reciprocate now.  And the fact that they act like children really makes me believe it's payback.  But here's the scary part:  Aunt Sophie and her brother (my father) are 4 years apart.  So are my brother and I.  Someday, I expect my nephew Kyle to come to the realization that there's a Cradle to Grave Bell Curve.  And when he does, I'll probably have my jacket on, ready for him to take me to lunch at the same time his father is demanding a cup of coffee NOW!

     Good luck Kyle and thank you NOW.


Monday, May 20, 2013

The Impossible Dream


     My husband Wally and I are compatible in many ways.  In the areas where we don't mesh, I guess you could say we're complementary. Yin and Yang, so to speak. This give and take, and always living in a big house with plenty of  “time out” space, has served to keep our marriage intact. 

     Visiting New York City is something about which we don't agree.  And when we used to live across the border in Connecticut, we “discussed” it many times.  To me, it's exciting Manhattan, full of wonderful Broadway shows, fine restaurants, and fascinating museums.  To him, the only borough is the Bronx and it's only open during baseball season. 

     Wally hates Manhattan.  He says it's crowded and dirty and expensive. That's the way I feel about the Bronx.  But for him, it was nothing to drive an hour to Yankee Stadium after a full day of work for a full night of baseball regardless of the hundred dollar seats, $20 parking, $7 hot dogs and $9 dollar beer, along with the cleanliness of the restrooms and the roominess of a sold out major league ballpark.

     The first time I got him to go into the city with me, I did it by promising  him lunch with a former major league catcher.  I knew that was enough to get him on the train.  Once we got to Grand Central Station, I 'fessed up that my ballplayer friend was a Met, not a Yankee.  Good sport that he is, Wally stayed, but he didn't pick up  the check.

     After that first time, I only asked for an annual New York City trip when we could take a small luxury bus to a Broadway show with a group of teachers from my school.  The bus would drop us off at a restaurant for lunch and then take us to the theatre for the show and pick us up right after.  In reality, we only spent a total of about 10 minutes on an actual New York City sidewalk.  It's the perfect way to experience Broadway for a man who hates New York. 

     Over the years we saw A Chorus Line,  Phantom of the Opera, Beatlemania, The Full Monty and maybe one or two others.  He resigned himself to the annual trip and I appreciated it.  He admitted that the shows were great.  So of course that was my opening to push for more shows, if only in Connecticut.  I got him to go to some regional theatre and even a few shows at the local high schools.  We saw student productions of Guys and Dolls, South Pacific and Man of La Mancha.  Wally especially likes the shows where he knows the music as well as the story.  For weeks afterward he'd be singing Some Enchanted Evening, Luck Be a Lady Tonight or To Dream the Impossible Dream. He was becoming cultured, despite being a jock to the core.

     So now we're in Florida and he's safely a long distance away from Broadway. I'm starting to discover the local arts scene and he's on his guard.  A few weeks ago, a friend gave me tickets for a show at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Center in Orlando.  We've never been there and I wanted to go no matter what the show was.  It was A Midsummer Night's Dream.  Shakespeare.  Not only Shakespeare but the Shakespeare play with all the fairies and that little impish forest-dwelling guy named Puck.  After studying Shakespeare in college and earning a masters degree in English, I can confidently say it's really not one of his better plays. 

     The production included a full orchestra, the Orlando Philharmonic, and the Orlando Shakespeare Company of actors along with the Orlando Children's Chorus.  The children would be the fairies.  All in all, I thought it would be a nice evening, but not necessarily a man's night out.

     I asked Wally if he wanted to go with me, emphasizing the Bob Carr Theatre more than the show.

     “You know honey,” I said sweetly, “The place next door to where the Orlando Magic plays.”

     I also mentioned the symphony orchestra so he'd realize that this was a big production that I would like to see.  And I know I said the show was A Midsummer Night's Dream.  I know that because I already had a list of girlfriends I'd ask because I assumed he'd say no.  He went to college.  He knew Shakespeare.  But he said yes and I knew enough to shut my mouth and thank God for the selective hearing of husbands.  He probably heard theatre, Orlando Magic and maybe orchestra and that was okay with me.

     In the week leading up to the show, all I did was remind him of “our date at the Bob Carr Theatre, next door to where the Magic plays.”  On Saturday night, we got all dressed up for what I called “a night at the symphony.”  I never said the name of the play after that first time when I asked him to go.

     Walking in from the parking lot, with the car keys safely in my purse, I said, "I really can't believe you agreed to come to this show.” 

     By this time, I kind of figured out he didn't know the show because he had a week to make Shakespeare and fairy jokes and he didn't. 

     He said, "I've seen it before, in New York, long before we met.”

     “New York!”  I was shocked. “You always gave me such a hard time about going to New York.  I thought you never went to any shows there until I started dragging you on the bus.”

     “Well, New York wasn't the draw,” he admitted.  “It was a long time before we met.  I was about 20 and an older, 22-year-old woman asked me to go to the show with her.  We were staying overnight with friends of hers, so I went.”

     “Aha,” I said, “The show wasn't the draw either, it was the overnight.”

      He laughed and said, “Well the show was pretty good too."

      Now I knew he had the wrong show in mind, but uncharacteristically, I didn't say another word about it.

     We had plenty of time to stroll around the lobby and gift shop before going to our seats.  Thankfully, all the posters on the walls were for upcoming shows, not this one.  And the program highlighted the entire season, with just the middle insert giving information for A Midsummer Night's Dream.  Considering we're both at the stage that we need reading glasses, we just flipped thru it to see the pictures and the big print.  After all, I knew the show and he said he knew the show and “it was pretty good too.”

     I didn't even look at him during the first act.  I was enjoying the music, reacquainting myself with all that Shakespeare dialogue and wondering whether Wally was sleeping or just silent.  Or was he staring at me?  I couldn't look. 

     At intermission, I turned to him and said, "Well, what do you think?"

     He said, "It's not what I expected.  Do we have to stay for the second act?"

     I said, "Yes, of course.  I love it.  What did you expect?  You said you saw this show before and liked it."

     He said, "Where's the Spanish guy with the dream and the windmills?  Isn't that A Midsummer Night's Dream?

     “No dear,” I said, “That's Man of La Mancha and the song is The Impossible Dream.”

     Wally was a good sport and we stayed for the second act.  I knew it was much shorter than the first act, so I knew he'd survive.

     The conversation on the way home was lively and Wally sang The Impossible Dream once or twice and then reminisced about seeing Man of La Mancha at my high school.  The boy who had the lead studied opera and went on to Julliard. 

     Wally remembered.  He said, “Hey, I wonder how that kid is doing, the one who played Cyrano de Bergerac?”

     You can take a guy out of the ballpark but you can't take the ballpark out of the guy.