Category Archives: friends

No safe harbor – Mariner’s Harbor, Kingston

imageYou’ve probably considered at least once what defines a restaurant experience as a positive one. Was it the menu? The presentation of the plates? The value? Maybe location or ambience? Or was it the service and attention to detail? While we all may have personal opinions about which components of dining out are most significance, I’m here to provide you with an example of the incredible importance of having an educated, competent and polite front of the house staff.

Last night I met my girlfriends for a dinner in Kingston’s Rondout district. Post-dinner we decided to find a place for an after dinner drink and found ourselves at a well established place none of us had ever ventured in before – Mariner’s Harbor. It was about 8:15 when we arrived and, after consulting with the accommodating hostess, we elected to take a high-top table at the bar where we would be able to enjoy our drinks after ordering and purchasing them at the bar. This is where things got bizarre…

I asked the young bartender if she had port. She looked puzzled. I asked again this time adding the word “tawny” as if that was going to get me somewhere. She shook her head with confusion. I spelled P-O-R-T and explained what it was to no avail. Realizing the futility of my quest, I asked for a wine/drink list. That, at least, she was able to provide.

My friends ordered a couple of cappuccinos and a Sambuca while I came to terms with the limitations of the list I had been handed. I asked if maybe they might have specialty coffees or cordials. Her eyes lit up with a glimmer of life and she dashed away to retrieve a different version of the wine list. Or so it seemed. In actuality, it was the very same offerings I had previously perused, only this time they were in a more elegantly bound list. Sigh.

I stepped away from the bar and asked my friend to order a sombrero for me, explaining that it was Kahlua and milk. The bartender apparently went right to work searching for guidance as to how to make a sombrero. When my friend, Lisa, interrupted her research and described the drink’s ingredients, she was rewarded with a muttered “Why didn’t you just say ‘Kahlua and milk?'” Um, I don’t know. I wouldn’t order a vodka and o.j., I’d order a screwdriver, right? Was it really unreasonable for me to order a drink by its proper name?

My friends and I moved on from our head shaking about the attitude and incompetence at the bar and spent some time visiting. At about 9:00, Virginia and I decided to hit the bathroom before hitting the road. When we approached the bathroom (which was directly across from the kitchen doorway) there seemed to be a crisis of sorts. It appeared that a number of servers had been congregating and then subsequently disbursed at our approach. Kind of like cockroaches when a light goes on.

We entered the bathroom where we were immediately confronted by the sight of a woman vomiting in the sink. She was being consoled by a friend and reassured that she was just fine. I beg to differ. It is not “just fine” to vomit in the (only!) sink of a public bathroom. If you’re sick (or have been over served) and vomiting is unavoidable, the spacious stall would be the more appropriate venue for your regurgitations.

During the few minutes we were in the bathroom, taking turns with one of the two stalls since the other stall was occupied by a server, as evidenced by her black apron on the stall floor, no employees addressed the situation. For all we know, that woman is still prone in the sink, thong exposed and mumbling. We won’t be back to check. Ever.

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Filed under Dinner, drinking, friends, Rant, road trips, Uncategorized, upstate New York

How do you smell?

Did it always look like a sex toy?

If you had asked me that same question 35 years ago, my response would have been “baby soft,” as in Love’s Baby Soft. Unless it was summer, of course. In summer I was devoted to Love’s Fresh Lemon. You 70s girls know exactly what I’m talking about, don’t you?

In many ways I’ve moved on since those days. I progressed through Estée Lauder’s White Linen and Clinique’s Elixir (there may even have been a brief interlude of Elizabeth Arden’s Sunflowers, but I’m not willing to admit that publicly) until I finally landed about 8 years ago on Chanel’s Chance.

Everything about Chance was perfect for me – the name, the package, the slightly spicy, definitely sexy nose…it was a grownup fragrance in every way. I wore the lighter version (eau fraiche) during the warmer months and imagined that my fragrance, like the tinkle of my charm bracelet, would be a signature for those closest to me. I had found my scent.

Recently, though, I found myself sometimes going days without a spritz. I didn’t feel the desire to punctuate my presence with Chance. I was over it.

imageOn my return from Paris we had a layover in Dublin, an airport that happens to have an excellent array of Duty Free boutiques and stores. I spotted the Jo Malone shop and immediately thought of my friend, Will, who wears a Jo Malone fragrance that makes me want to lick him whenever he has it on. Which is exactly what I told the lovely older woman working at Duty Free. After she recovered, she assured me in her lilting brogue that we would certainly find that, immediately.

The shop is simple, almost stark. The 16 available colognes were arranged in general categories – citrus, floral, spicy and woody. I assumed that the fragrance I obsessed over was woody or spicy because I love cedar and bergamot. After applying two scents and grabbing a bite to eat, I returned to the store disappointed that neither was quite what I was looking for. The saleswoman handed me a floral choice, I inhaled and immediately knew I had found my new fragrance – Pomegranate Noir, the very same scent that Will rocks. Will’s scent was now mine, and for a bargain of only 81 euro or about $85. The same bottle retail goes for $120.

I smell good.

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Filed under Fashion, favorites, friends, Recommendations, travel

No sleep till Brooklyn*

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My picture does NOT do the work justice. Apologies!

On Friday, despite Mother Nature’s attempt to disrupt my plans, I ventured down to Williamsburg, Brooklyn to attend my uber talented neighbor, Ken Ragsdale’s art show opening at the Front Room Gallery. As someone who doesn’t often attend gallery openings (read: hardly ever), I was a bit out of my element, and, as a person who doesn’t stray from Manhattan usually, I was definitely outside of my borough of reference. After consulting my Facebook friends regarding attire and Google maps for directions, we hit the road in the late afternoon. Next stop: The Hundred-Acre Wood!

View from the Roebling Tea Room on the first evening of spring.

View from the Roebling Tea Room on the first evening of spring.

The drive was uneventful, other than my imagination working overtime creating vivid scenarios about how the piece of Ken’s which ended up in the back of my wagon could be damaged during the trip to Brooklyn. Rear-end collision, encounter with a remarkable pothole resulting in the shattering of glass…

imageSafely parked around the corner from the gallery, wearing the suggested attire of skinny jeans, ankle boots and a cool hat, we met up with some of the Albany contingent and enjoyed a lite bite and a round of drinks at the Roebling Tea Room. My cocktail, an excellent old-fashioned with a clean, citrus element was wonderful, the small plates equally perfect.

The show was an absolute triumph. The work vividly expressed a time in the artist’s life and is truly stunning.  The presence of so many familiar faces must have made the opening a dreamy blend of memories and modern day moments.  So friggin cool.  Can’t get to Brooklyn?  Check out the group show opening Friday, 3/27/15 at the Albany International Whatever Airport right in the 518.

*This post has nothing to do with sleeping in Brooklyn or the Beastie Boys. Nothing.  I just love the sentiment.  Here – watch the video anyway.

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Filed under Albany, art, DelSo, drinking, Events, friends, Local, NYC, Recommendations, road trips, Spring

Restaurant families

imageAfter more than three decades in the restaurant business, I know a few things. Some of the knowledge I’ve gained is related to food – how to make a buerre blanc or hollandaise and what to do with an excess of vegetables (frittata, risotto or soup).

I’ve learned about wine and spirits and the significance of all the minutia that is involved with creating an atmosphere that welcomes guests and makes them want to return. All of this is important to being successful in the hospitality industry but it pales in comparison to what I’ve come to know about people.

As a server my focus, naturally, is on my guests. I sincerely want those that I take care of to be happy and I have been so fortunate to be able to wait on some of the same people since my long ago undergraduate days. They’ve witnessed my life and the connection we share crosses our respective sides of the table to a place somewhere in the middle. Many of them know which nights I work and I do my best to recall who likes to sit where and which glass of wine they enjoyed last time they were in. We’re familiar with one another.

Over the years, though, there have been situations which have proven that the most valuable thing I have learned about the restaurant business is that the people I have worked with are my family. We’ve shared annoyances, laughter and the stress of a life that is utterly unpredictable every single shift. At the end of the night, while counting money and emptying trash bins, we have connected over a glass of wine (or two) and then hugged good night before heading to our cars to return to our other families.

It’s been a really tough couple of months for my family. The losses right now are so utterly outweighing triumphs and joys that my heart is echoing with absence. As we come together again to support one another, to embrace each other in love and sorrow during a time which feels impossibly tragic, the ability of our industry to create connections between people eclipses in importance any other aspect of the job.

Each shift on the floor comes with the guarantee of there being something new to witness or with which to contend. At this time of sadness, it is vital that we also remember with that same certainty that we are a family.  Always.

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Filed under Albany, family, friends, Observations, relationships, Restaurants

Counting (on) friends

If you peek at my Facebook account you’ll see that I have more than 700 virtual friends. Pretty impressive, right? Thanks to the wonders of social media, I am absolutely swimming in friendship!  Look a little closer, though, and you’ll discover that many of my friends are people I don’t really ever see, except for online.  Whether it’s due to distance or time, we simply don’t really have occasion to be together in real life.  Does this mean we aren’t really friends?  How do you define a true friend?

Over the years, I’ve learned that the number of friends I have isn’t really that important.  No, that’s not really how I measure friendship.  You see, it’s not about the counting of, instead, it is very much about the counting on.  True friends are the ones on which we can rely upon to do as they say and follow through on their promises, regardless of how infrequently we actually see one another in person.  Those are the people who add immensely to our lives.  Each day brings a new opportunity to be that kind of friend.  Count on it.

 

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Filed under friends, relationships

If you don’t run under a full moon in frigid temperatures, with your outdoors besties, you don’t…

Image: fitandfeminist.files.wordpress.com

  • You don’t have an hour to talk and listen
  • You don’t see the moon part the clouds in greeting
  • You don’t feel your body transition from cold and tight to warm and loose
  • You don’t have the benefit of your besties’ wisdom and advice
  • You don’t devote your attention to where you’re going on a sometimes icy path
  • You don’t get to take a steamy, hot post-run shower with the best minty soap ever.
  • You don’t get to high-five, after 5, and admire one another for being so badass as to run under a full moon in frigid temperatures.

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Filed under Exercise, favorites, friends, Observations, running, winter

Smack(ed) – updated

This piece was originally posted last week.  I deleted it on the request of the loved one of my friend, but after much reflection am reposting it with the name of my friend removed.  It seems appropriate since while my friend was special, the situation, unfortunately, is not.  As the victim of a terrible disease and the drug dealers who feed that illness, he could have been anyone.  Heroin is killing the friends and family of people regardless of socio-economic, educational, ethnic and geographic boundaries. Sanitizing the situation does not change that fact.  Read more about this very real epidemic in Paul Grondahl’s ongoing series.  Peace to all of you who have lost children, siblings, parents and friends.  You’re not alone.

This morning on Facebook, nestled between the steady stream of photos capturing joyous Christmas scenes, there came some news I’ve been expecting for some time. But, as James Michener said, “We are never prepared for what we expect.”

When I met my friend, he was so on his game. Handsome as hell, kind, thoughtful and eager to learn, he had the potential to go anywhere. His days were spent working with other addicts, going to the gym and waiting tables. He was shiny and clean.

Over the time we worked together he shared some of his history with me. Hard drugs are something with which I have no experience. I don’t understand the appeal of a substance which may initially lift you up but ultimately will pull you down to the darkest of places. My friend talked about regrets and his hopes for his future. He was so smart and self-aware he convinced me that the days ahead were going to be brighter than those of his past. Until he told me he was looking forward to getting out from under the watch of the judicial system because he was eager to explore food and wine pairings at the restaurant where we worked together. I knew then that his sobriety wasn’t going to last, but the speed with which he ultimately fell was breathtaking.

I watched as his work ethic changed and his physical appearance deteriorated. He would disappear from the dining room floor at the end of the shift and return sweating and amped up in an almost aggressive way. He was soon fired and quickly burned through a number of subsequent jobs. He totaled his car and lost his sweet girlfriend. It was sad to see him.

My friend contacted me occasionally. About two years ago a longtime friend lost his son, a son who also happened to be a close friend of my friend’s. They shared the same disease and my friend had been the last person to see him alive. My friend looked like shit when I picked him up to drive to the wake – haunted with sunken eyes, unhealthy. I told him I was worried about him, that I didn’t want to have to go to his wake and asked if he could try again to get some help. I told him he was worth it.

It’s been almost a year since I last heard from him. His last message to me:

Hey sil…been a long time…u look amazing as always…I’m pretty sure ur the coolest mom ever…hope all is well with u and ur family…love always

I replied with the following:

Hey – what’s going on with you? Where are you these days? Healthy? I worry about you and hope you’ve found your way. Life is too short, my friend. XO Silvia.

Addiction sucks.

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Filed under friends, sick