Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

Sleeping around – France

In my 25+ years of traveling around Europe, I’ve slept in quite a variety of places. My very first trip back in 1988 provided me with both my most crude and my most refined accommodations; specifically the floor of a ferry crossing the North Sea and the lovely hotel in London where my friends and I were ultimately put up after our flight home was overbooked. The bathtub from that semi-posh place remains a luxurious memory of what was a very low-budget trip.

Since that time, I’ve stayed in an array of places – bed and breakfasts, a botel (a hotel on a boat), pensions, dormitories, a villa, apartments, small boutique hotels and larger chains. I’ve never had a single dreadful experience. After hearing a number of things about Airbandb, I decided to give their service a shot. I was not disappointed.

63d77637_originalMy Paris needs were kind of specific (3 beds, 2 bathrooms, near the Metro and with wifi), but not unreasonable. I wasn’t particular about which arrondissement we were in, but parking would be a bonus since I had family driving from Germany to join us. Here’s the apartment we ended up selecting for our stay. The area was reminiscent of the London Docklands or Battery Park City in Manhattan – not in the middle of everything, yet easily accessible. The flat was super modern, yet warm and the bathrooms were spacious and clean. It was a bit pricy (we paid a total of $616 for 3 nights), but when divided by two, it was a downright deal, particularly when you factor in the secure and free parking.

Selecting an apartment in Normandy was a challenge because I really didn’t know where to stay – coast? City? Country?9a9bea81_original I ultimately made the decision to stay in Bayeux because it had survived WW II relatively unscathed and there was a train station. The apartment I chose was a wonderful blend of old world charm and modern amenities in a central location. There were 2 bedrooms, a loft with a large bed and skylights, a washing machine, a contemporary kitchen and numerous small terraces. There was only one bathroom, but the WC and bathroom were separate facilities. Again, we had a parking space for my Uncle’s car and were able to easily walk to bistros, shops and historic sites. The total for our stay was $372, again divided by two.

We spent our last two nights in Paris at a hotel. I booked the rooms in advance using Hotwire and spent a total of $396, my share being $198. Our hotel, The Mercure, was in a super convenient spot near a train station and numerous Metro stops. The neighborhood was lively with no lack of venues for entertainment, eating or drinking. Our 4th floor room was generously sized and had a table and chairs as well as a small fridge. My son was very impressed with the speakers throughout the room (including in the WC) which prevented him from missing a moment of the BBC station he enjoyed in the morning. Personally, I loved the large window overlooking the busy street and our ability to walk to the Eiffel Tower. It was exactly what I was seeking at a more than reasonable price.

For 8 nights, $600 seems like a bargain amount to spend on accommodations.  Airbandb  delivered on their promise and I’ve already begun browsing their site for a potential place to stay next year when I go away with my middle son. His pick? Portugal and Spain. Tips, anyone?

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Filed under Europe, France, Recommendations, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

Edith Piaf lives (in cimetiere du Pere-Lachaise

imageWhen I was 15, I went through my hardcore Doors’ days. Didn’t you? Although not their most commercial album,  An American Prayer became my definition of poetry. I eagerly awaited my turn to read the dog-eared copy of No One Here Gets Out Alive, a Morrison biography, which was circulating through my town and I promised myself that one day I would pay my respects at Jim Morrison’s grave in Paris. Assuming, of course, that he didn’t return from wherever he had fled to escape the fame which had made his life unlivable in the U.S.,* before I got there.

While my son was committed to visiting Napoleon’s tomb while in Paris, a trip to the cimetiere du Pere-Lachaise was on my must do list. On Easter Sunday we took a long Metro ride to make our my pilgrimage. The cemetery is quite large, walled in and covering a hillside in northeastern Paris. Despite our map, we became a little disoriented and missed Morrison’s grave on our initial climb up the hill. Maybe it was the encounter with the fairly fresh grave of one of the victims of the January Je Suis Charlie attacks that caused our confusion. Regardless, we found ourselves in close proximity to Edith Piaf’s grave.

I talked to Liam about who she was and described her rendition of La Vie en Rose, explaining that her version was the definitive one of that classic French song. We paused, paid our respects and then headed down the hill to find Jim Morrison’s grave, inaccessible due to the metal barricades designed to discourage the enthusiastic and devout vandals who have persisted in leaving their mark on his tombstone for more than four decades. It was completely cool and satisfying nonetheless.

Later, we went to Montmartre to view the artists and their work, along with Sacre Coeur. As we walked, from a distance, I heard someone melodically whistling a tune – La Vie en Rose. Perfect.

*if you’re near my age you probably remember the theory that Jim would come back a decade after his “death.”

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Filed under Europe, France, Music, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

Hips don’t lie…

…but sometimes they do cry. As I transition from a season of x-country skiing to being back on the pavement, my hips are screaming in protest. They really do prefer the glide of skis on powder to the pounding of feet on sidewalks.  It’s going to be a long spring/summer/fall if the hips and I can’t find a way to get along.  Maybe you have some tips to share?  

image: http://images.ethicalocean.com

Before we get to that, let me tell you what I’ve been doing to make friends with my ever-so-important hips:

  • Intense massage with active stretches
  • Yoga – at least one 75 minute class a week.  Last weekend I got lucky and took a class with The Hot Yoga Spot‘s Aaron.  He introduced the theme as “Hips: heaven or hell.”  Perfect!!  It really was just what I needed.
  • Lots of pigeon pose
  • Alleve
  • Slow-paced runs
  • Hot baths (with bubbles and sometimes a glass of wine)

So – what have you got?  Am I missing something?  What else can I do to loosen up these damn hips?

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Filed under Exercise, running, Uncategorized, x-country skiing, zaftig

Feeling testy about NYS assessments

imageHow much do you know the mandated state exams administered to elementary school students in New York State? What do you know about these tests and their significance? Have you heard about Assemblymember Jim Tedisco’s bill proposal to allow parents to “opt out” of the required tests? If these three questions were on a test you were taking right now, how would you do?

As a teacher and a parent, my interest in these exams is pretty intense. Although there was initially the threat of my being required to test my population of students, I don’t have to administer tests in my “subject” area because I’m a secondary (grades 7-12) librarian and we have been given an alternative assessment rubric. At present my annual professional performance review (APPR) doesn’t include a student test component.*

That fact that I am currently exempt from delivering tested curriculum does not mean I am unaffected by the exams. I see the impact of these tests on my colleagues, my students, and of course, my own child. Last year, when my then-third grader came home the first week of school talking about “the tests,” I was dismayed. This year, I’m disgusted.

I’ve heard about a dozen different “facts” related to opting out of the tests. Things like “if less than 16 children in a given class or 95% of a building’s population take the tests the results can’t be counted against the teacher of the school” and “students must sit for the tests even if they refuse to participate, yet will be given a score if they so much as mark the answer sheet.” I just don’t know what is accurate information and, believe me, contacting NYSED with my questions is probably about the last thing I’d consider doing.

This Thursday, March 12th at 6:30, the Bethlehem Public Library is hosting a forum presented by the NYS Alliance for Public Education on the topic of the excessive use of testing in New York State. A portion of the forum will be devoted to Opt-Out and I hope that many of the questions I have will be addressed. If you have questions of your own this may be just the opportunity to get some answers.

*It also doesn’t include any evaluation of how I manage a budget, a sizable collection in multiple formats, or a facility (or two).

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Filed under Education, Events, politics, Schools, Uncategorized

Shoulder season

imageIf you’re an outdoors exerciser, you’ll probably agree that we’ve arrived at shoulder season – or, as I like to call it, ass season. As in, falling on your ass if you’re not cautious because it’s so damn icy. We’re somewhere between skiing and running/cycling season and each day brings the question of which activity will be best attempted in conditions that seem to vary daily.

The golf course has deteriorated into an icy landscape, complete with bare spots and piles of dog poop. I skied it Friday and it was treacherous. After walking it on Saturday, I reluctantly concluded that ski season was over. I consoled myself with my first run in weeks – 5 slow, wet and slick miles. My quads are screaming today, so I guess I guess we can call this shoulder, ass and quads season to be accurate.

This morning, there was an unexpected (to me) period of snow. Fluffy flakes quickly accumulated and frosted the icy snow changing my prospects for the day. A ski it would be.

Work last night, an obscenely early soccer game (7:30), and the time change had combined to kick my ass, confirming the appropriateness of my naming the season after the gluteal region. After a nap between fresh flannel sheets, I felt prepared to attempt the golf course, hoping that the trails would be improved. It proved to be beyond my expectations.

The sun had softened the snow’s crust and the newly fallen flakes had filled in the worst of the divots. The sky was blue with fluffy white clouds and the ski was sublime. Although I am generally conscious of being present in the moment, I focused even harder on experiencing this ski, imagining it as being my last of the winter.

The interior trails, particularly the Coca-Cola, were beautiful and easily negotiated. Jeter and I explored a new path or two and when we completed our long loop it seemed we both felt pleasantly fatigued.  Regardless of which part of my body feels sore, that soulful place inside me feels satisfied.  Time for a glass of wine.

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Filed under Albany, beauty, Exercise, running, skiing, snow, Uncategorized, winter, x-country skiing

18 thoughts from the weekend my son turned 18

  • When he was born, my oldest son scared me. That changed.
  • Now, I’m in awe of him.
  • According to my sons, the plural of penis is penis. (The “s” is silent when it’s plural)
  • Crazy > Creepy
  • The Olde English was the perfect place to celebrate my Anglophile son’s birthday.
  • Molly, our server, deserves a raise. She was terrific, as was my fish and chips.
  • The skiing this weekend was wonderfully challenging.
  • Ryan, the guy at Best Buy who set me up with my new phone, was a super representative.
  • The woman who violently slammed my car with her hand in the parking lot at Crossgates Mall represented “ugly with anger” beautifully.
  • It feels good when someone you’ve known for 20+ years tells you that you look happy.
  • Troy really isn’t that far from Albany.
  • The old fashioned at The Wine Bar and Bistro and the new fashioned at New World Bistro Bar are equally perfect.
  • Applying for my son’s third passport in 18 years fills me with pride.
  • 8 countries in 18 years is pretty damn impressive.  I can’t wait to see where else my children venture.
  • McGeary’s on a Saturday night was wonderfully diverse, a testament to Tess’ ability to create an atmosphere that is welcoming.
  • Putting on a pretty dress and lipstick for an evening out doesn’t ever get tired.
  • It has been a remarkable season for x-country skiing.  That being said, I’m excited to hit the pavement in my sneakers soon.
  • The seasons, the years, life go(es) by so very quickly.  Get it while you can.

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Filed under Albany, birthdays, Boys, Dinner, family, Food, Lark Street, Local, Observations, Restaurants, skiing, Troy, Uncategorized, x-country skiing