Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dining Disaster

I am a restaurant snob.   I have no problem eating at a family style or fine dining establishment, but wherever it may be, I expect the food to be good and the service to be impeccable.  In the late 1990’s, I waitressed at a fine dining restaurant called The Chalet.  If I didn’t provide good service, I didn’t get good tips.

I remember working the evening of the first year anniversary of The Chalet’s opening where complimentary appetizers and champagne were offered in the lounge.  Four of us waitressed in the lounge that night while the rest of the wait staff took care of the dining room.  One of the girls asked the other three lounge waitresses if we wanted to split our tips.  I said no, there wasn’t much money to be made because of the free drinks and food.  That was a lie.  The other girls were lazy, serving the free champagne, then going in the back to drink some themselves.  I was taking drink orders  and even paid appetizer orders for those that wanted other choices.  I was the only one who actually approached the patrons to ensure they had what they wanted.  Several times, I had to sneak off into the ladies room and stuff bills in my socks, bra, pockets and wherever else it would fit.  I walked out with several hundred dollars that night and the other girls, by the time the night ended, were drunk and lucky if they earned $20.00.

My husband & I will sometimes squeeze in a lunch date if the timing works.  We planned lunch at The Old Canteen Restaurant on Federal Hill, but it was a Tuesday and they were closed.   Because of our time constraints, we decided to try the steakhouse at the Westin H otel which only was a few blocks away, but they were only open for dinner.   Upstairs in the Westin was an Italian Lounge called Centro.  They were open for lunch, so we decided to try it. 

The atmosphere was elegantly casual and the room was large and airy.  We waited for a moment by the hostess station and soon a very sloppy looking hostess directed us to a table and then tossed the menus on top of our plates and silverware.   I noticed a woman who looked like she was a bus person walking over with a pitcher of water.  She asked, “Do youz want water?”  My husband and I exchanged a quick glance and tried not to laugh.  He asked if he could have sparkling water.  She told him she would have to check if they had any.   Several more minutes passed and she returned with a bottle of sparkling water,  placed it on the table in front of him and walked away!  She didn’t pour it and did not even offer him a glass with ice. 

OK, so we’re already off to a bad start, but perhaps the bus girl wasn’t too experienced.  We hoped our server would be better.   It had been almost 10 minutes since we sat down and no one had come over to go over the specials, nor offered to take a drink order.  The bus girl was coming back.  Oh no!  She’s our waitress! 

“Are youz ready to order?”

Inwardly, I cringed as we placed our lunch orders and she walked away!  She didn’t even ask if she could start us off with a drink. 

Another 10 minutes passed, then 15.  My husband and I looked at each other and I asked him, “Do you want to leave?”  While I have NEVER in my life stiffed anyone for a tab, we would have totally been justified to walk away.  We had been seated for over a half hour, with no food or drink other than water.  Before he could answer, she was on her way out of the kitchen with our salads.  I figured if I wanted a drink, I’d better request one, because she wasn’t going to ask.  So I asked for a martini menu.  And she replied, “I’ll have to see if we have one.”  REALLY?  A high end restaurant with no drink menu?  Did they train this woman before setting her loose on customers?

She returned with a generic drink menu, with no specific specialty drinks.  I mentioned to her I liked to look at the restaurants suggestions and she just took the menu back , said ‘OK’ and walked away! 

Our salads were tremendous, which was a pleasant surprise.   The baby arugula salad came with a chianti poached pear, candied walnuts,  goat cheese and lemon vinaigrette dressing.  My husband had a spinach salad with portabella mushrooms, goat cheese, walnuts and white balsamic glaze.

When she returned with our lunches, I ordered a Cosmopolitan.  She brought it over without placing on a tray, there was no garnish,  just enough spilled as she walked to make the glass nice and sticky. 

 My lobster salad sandwich was delicious.  It was served on toasted brioche with lemon aioli, tomato and baby arugula.  My husband ordered a steak with mushroom sauce, garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus.  Everything was cooked to perfection.

And then… she spoke, “Do youz want anything else?”

We finished our meals, thankfully which in spite of the horrific service, were outstanding.  Although our time was running short, we did have time for desert. 

She came back.  “Do youz want desert?”

My husband ordered cheesecake and espresso and I ordered the crème brulee.  She put our deserts down, bringing me a clean FORK for my crème brulee,  disappearing again in the bowels of the kitchen.   She was nowhere to be seen and in order to eat my desert,  I used my husband’s tiny espresso spoon.

The waitress was nice enough, but clearly not experienced or even trained to waitress properly.  I found it insulting that Centro would allow a server on the floor with such an obvious experience deficit.   The constant use of the word “youz”  literally made me cringe, and although the food was amazing, we are fortunate to live in a city where great restaurants are in abundance.  Maybe we’ll go back to Centro eventually, but for the immediate future, I am content to try new places and leave the Centro experience in the far recesses of my mind, bringing it out occasionally for a good laugh.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I am  starstruck around celebrities.  I don’t know why, but stupidity just sets in when someone famous is around.  I will go just about anywhere to get a photo with a celebrity.  I ‘ve gone  to book signings in order to get an autographed copy of a celebrity book.  I took my sons and daughter to the  Providence Place Mall when the Red Sox road show was there so we could meet Mike Aviles and Oil Can Boyd.  I was thrilled when a Providence Journal photographer offered to take our photo.   

The TV show Providence was partially filmed in the downtown area back in the 90’s and I would watch them film scenes and wait for hours for an opportunity to say hi to the actors. I met and was able to get photos with several including Melina Kanakaredes (Sydney), Concetta Tomei (Sydney’s Mom), Seth Peterson (Robbie), Paula Cole (Joanie) & Tom Verica (Kyle).

So when I learned that Kevin Costner had a band and was performing at the Park Theater in Cranston, RI, I immediately bought the best seats I could get which wound up being in the third row.   Now in all honesty, if it weren’t Kevin Costner’s band, I certainly wouldn’t have dished out $125 to go.   But it was my hero, Kevin Costner,  a big movie star who brought me so much enjoyment and escape at the cinema.  I would have bought tickets to hear him recite the alphabet!   

 A photo with Kevin Costner would clear an item off my bucket list! 


Over the years, my husband and I have met a few celebrities.  Tony Bennett was so down to earth.  He chatted with my husband and me for a few minutes when we  found ourselves at one of his shows.  He met with a few of us after the concert at a Patrick Kennedy fundraiser.  When David and I lined up with Tony, Patrick, Patrick’s mother and girlfriend for a photo, I turned to Tony and said “I like your tie”.  “Oh no, “ he responded.  “it’s part of the shirt and he proceeded to unbutton his shirt and show me just as the photographer snapped the picture!”   We spoke for a few minutes and he autographed my program before we left.  He never rushed us along , making us feel welcome and important.

In September, 2011, we visited Sharon Springs, NY, home to the Fabulous Beekman Boys.  Brent & Josh are partners who moved from NYC to become farmers.  Their Planet Green reality show has helped to revitalize a forgotten town in upstate NY.   Community minded, funny and friendly, they organize the yearly Harvest Festival in the fall, which includes many activities throughout the weekend including tours of their farm.  They also have a store in the center of town which was where I met Brent several times before the Harvest Festival.     

The weekend of the Harvest Festival featured a book signing of their new Heirloom cookbook.  David, Jr., Mikey and I saw Brent and met Josh briefly at the book signing. 

The next day, we boarded the shuttle from the center of town to their farm, about a mile or so away.  Josh and his parents were at the farm, while Brent stayed in town at the store in town.  Josh’s mom spoke with us for a bit and then took a photo of us sitting on the mansion steps. 

We rejoined the tour and then went over to speak with Josh and of course, get some photographs.  He seemed to genuinely enjoy  speaking with us.   Mikey was difficult to engage and of course I mentioned the autism.  He spoke with the boys about the subjects they liked in school and we told Josh about Mikey’s forte with maps.  He stopped dead in his tracks and said ‘Follow me”.  There were people who tried to ask him for a photo and he brushed them off and said “I’ll be back in a minute.”  Then he said to me, “Pretend like you’re part of the family” and he led David, me and the boys right inside the Beekman mansion!!  He asked his mom to show us the maps and then he went back outside.  Inside the living room were original maps of Sharon Springs from the 1800’s and we all enjoyed looking at them!

In October, 2011, Dan Ackroyd made an appearance at Yankee Liquors in South Attleboro, MA to promote his new business venture, Crystal Head Vodka.  My husband, sons and I waited in line for 4 hours to say hello, get an autographed bottle of vodka and hopefully a photo with him.  When it finally was our turn, my husband performed his imitation of Steve Martin (Festrunk Brothers) from Saturday Night Live and yelled to Dan “You sex maaachine”.  Dan was laughing and quipped back,  “Two wild and craaazy guys”.   The wait was so worth meeting Dan!


I ran my normal errands the morning of the Kevin Costner show and on a whim, rode by the Park Theater.  The Modern West trailer was there!  I tried to get close, but security asked me to leave.  I asked if I could just say hi to Kevin and get a quick photo and they told me no.  My husband knew the head of security, Al, and Al told me to see him that night at the concert and if he could, he’d get me backstage.  However, it seems that Mr. Costner would not accommodate anyone other than a very select few.  

After the concert, about 2 dozen of us were waiting near the gated off tour bus.  Security actually blocked our view while Kevin climbed aboard the bus with a quick wave and that was that.  Seriously?   I totally get it that celebrities forfeit a lot of privacy however, we,  the fans, are the ones that enable these celebrities to  enjoy the fame and fortune we paid for.  When we purchase tickets and attend these performances, they OWE it to us to come out and say hi.  

On the way home we found ourselves behind the tour bus and we followed that damn tour bus back to the Westin where it disappeared up a private entrance to the garage. 

I have very little help with our sons, so I very rarely have the opportunity to go out during the evenings, and therefore must pick and choose my outings carefully.  I guess I shouldn’t take it so personally, but it was a bitter disappointment that Kevin  couldn’t be bothered to walk 30 feet from his trailor and say hi to a few of his dedicated fans, especially me.  In life, it doesn’t matter how much money you have, how nice-looking you are, or how many movies you have been in, it’s how you treat people that really counts. 

Kevin, being a nice guy really would have counted for something, at least in my eyes.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

My Sons Are Autistic

It’s been very difficult for me to accept my beautiful sons are both autistic.  The diagnosis seemed so dismal.  Prior to 2004, when David had been initially evaluated, I had never met anyone with autism and my only experience with this disorder was from seeing the movie Rain Man with Dustin Hoffman.  Not very promising, devastating in fact…

Yet my sons are both very intelligent boys and they love to read and learn.   Their social skills are lacking in some areas, but both can be pretty outgoing and friendly.   Life for them is black and white, right or wrong, there is no middle ground.

Mikey has no filter.  One morning, at the school entrance, a  special needs boy was upset and flung himself on the ground in front of us, kicking and screaming.  Mikey marched right up to him and scolded, “You’re not supposed to be on the ground.  Get UP!”    Recently, we replaced our deck and the   contractor was puffing on a cigarette.  Mikey looked at him and said, “That stinks.  Smoking is bad for you.”   One of my many fears is that he’s going to say the wrong thing to the wrong person and get a beating.

David, Jr.  is extremely sensitive and kind.  Every year, after the first week of school  is under his belt, his teachers come up to me and tell me that he is their favorite.  He gives new meaning to the words ‘teacher’s pet’.  Last year, one of his third grade teachers told me that she always asked him to help other classmates if they were struggling with an assignment.  She said David had a way of helping his friends without making them feel stupid. 

However, basic manners like saying thank you and please, and looking someone in the eye when speaking can be a challenge.   When greeted, both David and Mikey sometimes walk on by as if no one even spoke to them at all.   These are times I feel compelled to explain that my sons aren’t really rude, my sons are autistic.

Preschool was extremely stressful for both me and my husband.  It would take the two of us a couple  hours every morning to get them ready for school.   Mikey would scream bloody murder when I brought him into his classroom and I could hear his sobs as I forced myself to leave the school.  When I picked them up after school, Mikey would press the elevator button.  If he didn’t, I could count on a minimum of a two hour kicking and screaming tantrum.  He would freak out if I didn’t take the exact same route home.   If the cable happened to go out or there was a test of the Emergency Broadcast System when he was watching TV, the entire night would be ruined.

Happily I can report that with skillful and patient teachers and a lot of consistent reinforcement both at school and at home, Mikey has come a long way in dealing with one of his greatest obstacles; breaks to the routine.  We are now working on fine tuning some of his social skills.  But still, when others are present to witness a lapse in good behavior or a full blown outburst, I feel obliged tell them, "my son is autistic."

When meeting new people, Mikey has a tendency to either not speak and not make eye contact.  When he meets  a younger child, he sometimes becomes overly friendly and at times overbearing.  He recently met a little girl at a birthday party and was trying to play with her by following her around and teasing her.  Well, she thought he was teasing, but it was just his way of trying to engage her in play.   He had no idea that his behavior was inappropriate and that she didn’t like it.  And I again I had to explain to the girl’s mother that he doesn’t mean to make her daughter uncomfortable, it is his way of showing he likes her,  he is autistic. 

When we are out and there is a lot of sensory stimulation, ultimately one or both with start some form of stimming, usually in the form of hand flapping and again, it is imperative that I clarify the fact that my sons are autistic. 

But even as this phrase flows effortlessly out, I  can hear the words that Josh (Fabulous Beekman Boys) emphatically stated to me last fall as we were following him into the Beekman Mansion in upstate NY.  “Different is good”.   

And as my sons continue progress and grow,  I am finally beginning to think Josh may be right.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Welcome to My Blog

This is my 50th year.  50 years. Half a century.  It sounds so old.  I remember thinking that the year 2000 seemed like an eternity away in 1976.  I would be so old then, a whopping 38 years. Might as well bury me!  And now, I am a mere three months away from my 50th birthday.  The big 5-0. But I don’t feel old.  As a matter of fact, I think I peaked in maturity at around 48 and now am in the beginning stages of regression.  I am most definitely in the throes of a midlife crisis.  I am grateful for my health and I love my family, but nonetheless, I am feeling unfulfilled and have a nagging feeling that I am running out of time.  The result of this is?  I want to have fun.   That’s all.  

I have always loved to read. I spent my summers lounging outside, gently swaying on a hammock tiedbetween two maple trees with a book in my hand and imagining that I could someday write my own novel.  Once I got my driver’s license in my junior year of high school, my focus changed togetting a part time job and shopping at the mall.  I skipped my senior year of high school and was accepted to the Early Admissions Program at the University of RhodeIsland.  As a sheltered seventeen yearold Catholic school girl with no experience with boys, I was totally out of my element.  When I got my first boyfriend,I wound up dropping out of school so I could travel with him to Florida.   We eventually split up and I rebounded withmy ex-husband, and became pregnant.   I worked a part time waitressing job and spent my spare time reading cheesy Harlequin romance novels until my daughter was born.  For several years, my life was basically on hold as I was a full time mother, living in Connecticut away from my friends and family and married to a man I really didn’t like too much. 

After my divorce, I moved back to Rhode Island.  For nearly 8 years, I worked for my father’s flooring company, until business slowed down and I was forced to find alternate employment.  I was hired as a receptionist for a personal injury law firm, and it was there that I met my husband David on a blind date.  Seven years later, David proposed to me at an Italian restaurant in New York’s LittleItaly and we were married in February, 2000.  By December of that year, I was pregnant with my first son.  My daughter was now 19.

My daughter Jaime is approaching 29 years of age and hasgrown into a beautiful, confident independent woman.   She works several jobs including the graveyard shift at Target for her benefits, teaching dance classes at a local dance studio and working on weekends for   an entertainment company where she dances at Bar Mitvahs in the Boston area.  When she has a free weekend, she occasionally go go dances at Foxwoods Casino and a couple of clubs in Boston.  Jaime is to hip hop what Eminem is to Rap.  This girl can seriously move.   I don’t know where she gets it from.

I have 2 sons, David (11) & Michael (9), both of whom are autistic. After David, Jr.’s evaluation, I remember numbly sitting in the doctor’s office with my husband,vaguely processing the dismal prognosis, which was primarily based on David’s lack of speech.  Now, 7 years later, my beautiful son is one of the smartest kids in his integrated classroom, and he doesn’t EVER stop talking.  He can always be found with a book in his hand.   His library contains books on Benjamin Franklin, Presidents, and baseball.  Occasionally I even find him reading the encyclopedia!  And the questions!  I can’t fathom where he thinks of all his questions.

Michael is very bright also, but is very routine driven and is better at activities requiring rote skills.  His comprehension has been a constant source of challenge for him (and me).  He is very skillful at video games and loves to play Angry Birds on my iphone although we have set limits on the amount of time for games.  I can see him someday as a creator of video games.  Mikey also loves to read and learn and he is also functioning well in an integrated classroom.

I worry  a lot.  I worry about what will happen to my sons when my husband and I are not around.  I don’t know how they will survive without us. In addition to the autism, both boys have food allergies to dairy, eggs, tree nuts and peanuts.  I worry about our advancing age and the increasing likelihood that one of us could be hospitalized for surgery and if it were me, who would cook for the boys?   We do not have much family support when it comes to just babysitting, never mind actually caring for them for a period of time.

So in spite of our challenges, which compared to others, are not really so bad, I am attempting to pursue my quest for fun.  I am striving to make 50 FABULOUS!

That’s my story in a nutshell.  So where will things go from here?  I guess I’ll find out soon enough…