Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Saving Money In Summertime

The warm weather is here and everyone is happy.  It's officially playtime for many kids, as well as many adults.  One thing that happens every summer to almost all of us.  Spending lots of money!  It seems like summertime is like a vacuum to the wallet.  I have two jobs during the school year, but once school ends I lose a pretty sizable chunk of income.  So I was thinking about ways to save money.  I know, maybe not hitting the bar every night is one, but hey, it's summer.  It's still light out at 8:30.  I don't want to stay home.  So I've come up with a few ways to save a couple of bucks, while not changing too much.

1. My Wedge Theory - when going to the deli, instead of buying that roll for $6.00, spend the extra $1.50 and get a wedge.  Eat half for lunch and save the other half for dinner or for lunch the next day.  You do this twice a week and you're saving $10 a week.  Not only that, you're probably eating less which is always healthy.

2.  Mini-Q's Nights - Invite some friend over and everyone chips in.  Two lbs of ground beef, a package hot dogs and the buns.  A 30 pack of beer and maybe a bottle or two of wine.  You invite six people over - everyone gets a nice 6oz burger, a hot dog, five or six beers and a glass or two of wine.  Don't go crazy with the wine and you can have the entire meal cost under $50.  Sounds costly for a weeknight meal?  Well divide it by six and you see it's a little more than $8/person.  That's less than a #1 at Burger King and about the same as one dish of Chinese food from the takeout place.  Plus, you'll get to share the meal with company and have a fun time.

3.  Cool and Refreshing -summer, the kids want ice cream.  That gets pricey.  Ice cream has gotten crazy in my opinion and most these days taste like shit.  So why not make something a little more nutritious and easily as delicious.  Shaved ice.  You can do this one of two ways.  You can either make a  block of ice and shave it down and add the flavors.  Or put it in a shallow tray, make a simple syrup pour in and add flavors (like lemon and mint) and let it start to freeze.  Scrape with a fork when done and then dish into cups or small bowls.  As good as ice cream and just as refreshing and costs pennies on the dollar. 

4.  Avoid the beach - Go to a local park instead.  You save money on gas and as long as you don't feel the need to be nude, you can still wear your bikini.  If your local beach has a concession stand you know you're going to hit it at least once.  Pack a picnic basket with cold beverages, cold fruit and maybe a sandwich (a wedge to split) and you're good.  Plus, being that everyone is a phone call away, if someone needs you, a party breaks out, or there's a tsunami...you're good to go.

5.  Eating Out Early - many places have either early bird specials in the summer.  Some have two-for-one specials, some have prix fixe menus, some just have appetizer or drink specials.  Any place where two people can go and save some money, while being out anyway, is a bargain.

6. Eating Light - nobody wants a big bowl of pasta in the summer anyway.  So get in on some big salads.  Spruce them up with grilled chicken or steak.  A nice thinly sliced London broil mixed in with some lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber?  Easy and inexpensive and there are bound to be leftovers.  Throw that on a toasted baguette the next day with some mayo or maybe even some bleu cheese dressing and you've got an awesome steak sandwich.  Don't underestimate the value of corn either.  Corn is inexpensive, delicious and I find it to be quite filling.  If you have a grill, for heaven's sake, don't wrap it in tinfoil.  Take the silk out, without ripping the leaves off and soak it in water.  Before grilling, melt some butter and mix it with oil.  Slather the mixture all over the corn, season with salt and water ever else you like and close the leaves over the kernels.  Apply directly to grill.  When the leaves start to burn, you're ready to chow down. Damn I wish I had a grill.  I want the corn right now!

7.  Turn the Lights Off - This doesn't have to be only a summer rule, but there is something cooling about sitting in the dark.  Maybe it's me, but sometimes when I'm at home I turn the lights off to watch a movie and immediately I'm ready for the covers.  It just has an odd cooling effect.  Not to mention you're saving on electricity and we all love to stick it to Con Edison.

8.  Back to the Grill - along with the fact it's great to grill in the summer.  Not having the oven and stove on will keep your house cooler.  That and when you stand over that hot grill, that cool air will feel that much better when you step back inside.

9.  Vacations - going on vacation?  If you're not getting on a plane and you know where you're going.  Stop at the supermarket before you settle in, even if you're staying in a hotel.  Get dried foods or fruit.  Maybe even milk and cereal or bagels and cream cheese if you have a fridge.  Skipping the local breakfast stops will not only save you cash, but let you start your day a little quicker.  Especially if you have kids. 

These are just some thoughts.  I'm using some of these to pay for my coke binges and prostitutes, but you may find some of these valuable tips for more important goals.  I'm not saying I actually save any money, but if I owned a home, a grill and had a family, I'd be damned if those little cretins are getting the all-you-can-eat pancake special on my dime.  Oh yeah and honey, it's not the only reason the lights are off.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Driving

Why do some people get so agitated while driving?  Why does traffic make people insane?  Why is there such a thing as road rage?  I don't get it.  Sure I get mad at the guy who doesn't signal and almost kills me, but the every day stuff is petty stuff.  And we know not to sweat that, don't we?

I'm talking about the people who set off to work in the morning and get stuck in traffic every day.  Why are they yelling at me.  I didn't know I was dozing off in the middle of two lanes.  They get stuck in traffic all the time and still go crazy.  Then they yell at a person who is probably out of sight distance like it matters.  Or people who get crazy because they have been in the car longer than they wanted to be, all because they made the left instead of the right at exit 7.  Hey Mapquest, Fuck You!

I relish this time.  In the car, all alone, cold drink in my hand (iced coffee thank you). I've got the radio on, singing like I think I can.  I do a mean Michael Buble in the car.  Or maybe it's the silence, just me and my thoughts.  There are no kids screaming, no nagging significant others, no bosses, no phones ringing.  Just me, my car and some blacktop.  This is my time. I enjoy every second of it.  I pass by an old lady and think about my grandmother and how crazy she is.  I see a teenage kid and wonder what his weekend has in store for him.  I see a trucker and imagine the tales he has to tell of distant cities and the ones he's met along the way.  I see a family and think back to my own childhood and our excursions.  I see a young girl, one foot on the gas, one out the window and I think about how flexible she is and, nevermind. 

I'm not always flying around doing 85, sometimes I'm stuck in traffic.  I'm listening to others yell, others scream. I watch their faces contort like slugs covered in salt.  They look at me as if to ask "what the fuck are you so happy about?"  I think to myself.  I'm alone with my thoughts, my dreams, my tone def voice and the idea that there are so many worse situations I can be in.  Then I smile.  Maybe even give them a wink.  They stop, mouth agape and then let me know that I am one finger away from being #1.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

How Did I Become So Serious?

When I started this blog, it was meant to be a playful way for me to talk about things that happen and my feelings on subjects that interest me.  As time has gone on, I've gotten political, sentimental, at times a little monotonous and very preachy.  I don't know what's happened to me lately.  I'm still fun to be with, so they say, but something has changed.  Is it 40 coming around the bend?  Or have I started to grow up?  Waking up with my wallet in the shower, my clothes soaking wet, and my phone semi-lost seems to prove it's not the latter.  So what is it?

I do know my patience is not what it used to be.  I work with children in the afternoons during the school year and things I used to laugh at are starting to bother me.  I don't totally blame myself.  The average parenting job is abysmal and there is a small amount of respect I demand.  I mean come on, I'm giving these kids the best hours of their week, the least they can do is call me Mr. Fat Ass.  I don't think that's too much to ask.

My evenings lately have proved I'm not getting too serious. I laugh with people, tease and get teased back.  I flirt with young ladies, sometimes even older ladies, but I never take anything too seriously.  Maybe that's my problem.  Maybe when I'm supposed to be serious, I'm a jokester and vice-versa.  Really, who ever writes vice-versa?  It's bizarre.  I sometimes talk in quotes, despite the fact it irks me when others do.  Ah!

I think the problem is that I feel lost.  I'm single, I don't have enough money to escape, and to be honest, I'm pretty fucking lazy when it comes to enhancement.  If there was a pill like Cialis, but it enhanced motivation, I think I would take it.  I need motivation.  I need motivation to clean my apartment, to buy a new car, to meet a new girl of my dreams, only to have my heart ripped from my chest like the pit from an avocado.  Weird analogy, because what follows after is a lovely creamy guacamole and there is no negative about guacamole  So why would I see myself as an avocado?  Maybe it's my heart being pounded by the mortar and pestle into a paste?  Who the fuck knows? What was I talking about?

I was home tonight and it dawned on me that I'm a pretty down person when I'm alone. I cry during movies most wouldn't.  I mean I just didn't realize that they were going to kill the shark at the end.  Oh, there was a book? When slightly motivated I can make a pretty decent meal. I better, I criticize everyone else's cooking. Usualkly, I dine alone.  I don't watch TV when I eat.  I think. I think about the conversation I could be having with a beautiful woman, sharing a nice Cabernet Sauvignon, a slight wink and the thoughts of a sensual dessert. Right about then, a neighbor's buzzer goes off and I drop food onto my boxers.  It's not a pleasant sight.  So where did I go wrong?  How is it, that this person, who makes so many people laugh, got so serious? 

I don't really care where it came from, but it needs to stop.  It makes me lose sleep.  It makes me short-tempered, ill-willed, stressed.  It makes me feel uncomfortable.  I don't have kids. I see the stress they cause others. Do I want them?  I don't know.  I don't have a wife.  I see the stress they cause others.  Do I want that?  I don't know.  I do know I want someone.  Someone to come home to, who will look at me without judging me, who loves me unconditionally and who will lick peanut butter off my balls.  Unfortunately my apartment doesn't allow dogs, well they sort of do.  Anyway, back to my dilemma.  I need someone or something to get me out of this serious rut.  Maybe it's a road trip I need.  I've been speaking of this since last October.  I wanted to rent a car and disappear for a week.  Maybe find myself.  Maybe not.  Maybe find the one that got away or the one that will get away.  Who the hell knows, but I know sitting at my office at 12:35 in the AM, writing a blog isn't going to make me less serious. 

I can't look to friends for help, because they will give logical solutions. I don't want those. I want illogical solutions.  I want someone to throw me out of a plane, no chute. As I spiral towards the earth, I'll think of all the things I haven't done.  The things I want to tell the beautiful girl I like.  The lives I haven't touched and who haven't touched me. I'll then want to live, just like Burt Reynolds in The End.  I think it may take something like that.  NO!  I'm not going to swim out into the deep blue sea to kill myself only to revel in the fact life is worth living.  I know it is.  A child's smile reminds me of that every day.  A pretty girl's hand on my arm.  A good friend's laugh.  All these things make me remember.  I just wish, I wasn't always a day late and a buck short.  I wish all the good one's weren't taken.  I wish that dinner for one was a dinner for two.  I'll even do the dishes. 

I don't know what the future brings, but I have to get back to the person I was.  The person who didn't give a shit.  The person, who made the fun, made the situation (not the guy from the Jersey Shore, nothing can make him better - he's perfect) better.  I can't depend on others to get me out of this funk.  I need to persevere. It may take a guiding light, it may take a Coors Light, or it may take a child's smile, that girl's touch, or that friend's laugh.  Maybe my senses have just become dulled by the monotony of life.  Funny how it's only monotonous when you're alone.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Do What You're Good At

I once had a teacher who told me that when we got older, we shouldn't try to be something we aren't.  We should do what we are good at.  She explained to the class that when she was younger, she always had a knack for showing kids who were younger how to do things.  She taught her friend to tie her shoes, her sister to ride a bike and a cousin to snap her fingers.  So she became a teacher. It all seemed trivial because we've all taught others, but she saw this a calling. So maybe this advice was fruitful, even if I didn't know it then.

I'm approaching the age of forty and friends of mine have different occupations and I'd like to say they are all good at what they do.  I have a friend who is a police officer and when I think about it, he's always been a little protective of others. I have a friend who is a fireman and when I think about it, he's always been good at lounging around, eating and sleeping.  Oh, wait, I mean he's bold and fearless.  I have a friend who is an accountant and he's always been frugal and good with money, even if it isn't his own.  I have friends who have become lawyers and they were always snakes.  So it got me thinking.  What is my calling?

I work in an office for a heating and air conditioning company.  I'm told I'm personable, so that helps.  I also run an after school program.  I am good with kids and most people always thought I'd have five or six kids by now.  I have none.  I worked as a roofer. I was always good at getting a tan and carrying heavy crap up ladders, but that's not really being good at something, is it?  So what is it I'm good at?

I've given this a lot of thought.  I used to be pretty damn good at sports, but never played for any teams.  So an athlete was never in the cards.  So what is it I do well.  After much deliberation I've come to the conclusion that I have a few too many gigabytes of useless info in my brain, I love food, I'm told I'm a decent writer and I'm good at drinking.  So how can I turn that into a profession?  My first thought is talk show host, but who the heck would hire me?  I have a face for radio and don't think I could do the small-talk thing for very long.  So how can someone who is good at drinking and possesses knowledge of all things unimportant make a living? 

Here's my thought.  I'm going to become a bar critic.  I think I'll go every bar in NYC and Westchester and review it.  My reviews won't be like most restaurant critics though.  No way.  I'm going to have a whole different view on how to rate a place. Bright lights - no way.  If it's a 90 degree day and the sun is shining bright, I want to walk down into an abyss of whiskey and scotch soaked mahogany.  Two beers on tap, four in bottles and a plethora of spirits I've never heard of.  I will rate the place on my state walking out as well.  I will stay one hour, maybe two in each establishment.  If I walk out feeling a little light headed, it's only going to add to the rating.  If the bartender decides to tell me his life story, I'll negate some points.  Unless of course his life story is as interesting as Hemingway or Howard Hughes'.  I'll get some pub grub and it better be greasy.  I don't want white cloth napkins either.  I'm there to chow and drink, I don't need to pretend I'm a dainty little bitch.  If on my first bite, I stain my shirt, it only makes me like the place more.  If after seeing my Bukowski-esque ways, the regulars embrace me as one of their own, I'll love the place even more.  I want to feel like I could return, in my bath robe, and sit down without there being even a whisper questioning my behavior.

My ratings will be based on five simple criteria.  I will rank the place on comfort, the bartender, the patrons, the food, and finally on the overall outcome.  Too often service and decor is taken into account.  I want a place that is either alive and kicking or so dead I know I can go and hide.  The middle ground is for sophisticated cosmo drinkers.  They need not subscribe to my rating system. I think this is my calling in life.  I think it is my destiny.  I just need someone to listen and someone to care.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The View from the Promenade

A common phrase since 9/11 is "We Will Never Forget."  I'm sure nobody ever will forget the horrors of that day r those that followed.  Images emblazoned in our minds whether we like it or not.  I, like many Americans, especially New Yorkers, cried when the towers fell.  To many, they were a symbol of the New York skyline. To me, a symbol of my youth. 

Growing up in Brooklyn, I could see a few things from my bedroom windows.  To the south I could see the Williamburgh clock tower.  At night, lit to tell me just what time my parents had let me stay up, well past my bedtime.  To the north, with a little stretching and some clear skies, I could see the top of the towers.  Living in Brooklyn, I don't remember calling them the towers.  I remember them as the World Trade Centers.  The towers seems to be a catchy media term that's much easier to say.  I remember going on top as a child and being in awe, not of the views, not of the people who looked like ants below.  No, I remember being in awe of how the slightest breeze brought on an anxious feeling.  One that made you feel, that if the wind had been stronger, and my mother wasn't grasping my little hand, you might just fly away and maybe even end up in Brooklyn.
I recently saw a picture of a sunset view of the skyline from the Brooklyn Promenade.  The promenade was where I viewed the fireworks during the centennial for the Brooklyn Bridge in 1983.  I moved from Brooklyn twenty-five years ago.  I haven't been back often and only once did I go to the Promenade.  It dawned on me, while looking at the picture, that the last time I was there, the World Trade Centers still stood tall.  The last time I was near the place they know call Ground Zero, a few years later, they were still there.  It was a little jarring.

A trip down to Brooklyn is coming up.  This time around, I'm going to make a point to go to the promenade.  I'm going to stand there.  I'll remember the childhood memories standing there with friends and family, watching break dancers and fireworks, young couples in love and old ones too.  I'm going to gaze and think about the changes.  Sometimes for us in Westchester it's almost like an illusion.  I know for me, as I stand there as an adult, I will know that not only is that symbol of our city gone, but a tangible memory from my youth.  Something that made me realize how small I really was.  Somehow now, my childhood, like those grandiose towers, seems like they never were.  Unfortunately, there are somethings in our lives we do forget.  We need pictures, sounds, or smells to remind us.  Sometimes the mind tells us they were just a mirage.  I want to stand there, soak it all in.  Part of it is gone, parts of it look different.  The place is still there, both in reality and in the depths of my mind.  It will take me back to when I was a child.  When none of it mattered.

Friday, June 4, 2010

On The Menu

Recently, I discussed an American phenomenon with a bunch of people from Ireland. They noticed what has annoyed me for years. It's the art of ordering food in a restaurant. Restaurants go out of their way to come up with new twists on dishes to stir not only curiosity, but sales. Why is it that so many Americans can not simply order what is on the menu? I understand that if you have a nut allergy, you need to know what is in the dish, but could you not order the sesame noodles without sesame sauce?

I dated a girl for the better part of three years who in all that time, not once, do I ever remember her ordering something as printed on the menu. In that time, she complained many times about the food. I would always tell her that if she ordered something as is, it most likely would be prepared well. Cooks get used to preparing the same meals and master them. Throw them a curveball or substitute something that takes more or less time to cook and chances are you're not going to be happy with the results.

I spend a lot of time sitting at the bar and I've heard it all. "Can I have a cheeseburger without the cheese?" This is why I am not a waiter or bartender. Because my sarcasm boner would be aroused and the results would not be pretty. The guy I was talking to the other day said someone he waited on asked for the Swiss burger, but with American cheese. Are you serious? Another thing I hear a lot, which is comical, is when people want a substitute that is another dish. I have heard someone say "can I have the burger, but instead of fries, can I have mozzarella sticks?" Sure, for another $7, you sheisty fuck! Do people actually think this will work?

My feeling is that if you're going to go out to eat and you know what you want already, then you should go to a supermarket instead and then go home and make that dish. I never understand when people tell me they are going out to eat and can't wait to have this or that dish. Yes, we all have that special place that does a certain dish to perfection, but I mean in general. I go ballistic when driving with people to a restaurant and they start saying what they are going to order. Don't you want to peruse the specials? Don't you want to know if they have soft-shell crabs or in season tuna? Maybe they are having a roasted rack of lamb special or duck l'orange. Why have you settled on Penne Vodka when they have Fusilli ala Capresse with tomatoes and basil freshly picked from their own garden? Why order boring old chicken Parmesan when they have lovely squab sitting on a bed of creole rice? Sorry, went off on a little bit of a foodie rant.

I would like to think the owners of any restaurant have chosen certain ingredients to combine to form certain dishes, because they have tried them out and they work. I trust a guy with twenty years experience in a kitchen more than my mental imagery of what might taste good and I'd like to think I know more than most about good food. My main point is that most of the people I know who like to play word jumble with the menu aren't happy with their food, ever. Don't like capers? Don't order the dish with capers, because the flavor will be off. You're not going to see me ordering cherry jubilee anytime soon, because I hate cherries and I don't think the chef will make it out of escargot!

And another thing, stop putting salt and pepper on your food before you taste it. Oh shit, I feel another blog coming on!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Tipping

This is a sensitive subject with lots of people. Actually, it's pretty much a sensitive topic with everyone. The reason is because nobody ever wants to be called cheap. Some people over tip, some under tip, some tip depending on service, some tip the standard (18%), some tip what the standard once was years ago (15%), and some refuse to tip altogether. Some people tip everyone, some tip some, and some tip only those they feel worthy of their gratitude. Some people don't tip altogether. Oh, I said that already.

Now tipping usually isn't a big deal, unless you're out with a group. There is nothing more awkward than going out for a game at the bar. You're there for a good four hours. Drinks, appetizers and burgers are flowing. The game is great, everyone is happy, the bartender or waitress has taken care of you with a free cocktail or two and you get the bill. Everyone does the customary stare and someone picks it up and says $380. Everyone starts calculating with their mental abacus and five guys throw in $80 and one guy throws in $70. Everyone looks at the guy and thinks "what the hell?" Finally one person will say "throw up the extra ten spot Goldstein!" I do realize that this is a terrible stereotype about Jews, but the truth is and it is this writer's belief that stereotypes are based on 51% truths. Therefore any Jewish or elderly Italian last name is actually allowed. Yes, I said it. I live in Eastchester and I said it. You old guineas are as cheap as any Jews I know. Back to the story. The sixth wheel looks down at his wallet and puts the ten back and pulls out a twenty. Knowing, not only is he going to be ridiculed later on, but he will most definitely be up on the next round, should their be a latter stop.

The reverse problem is also true sometimes when you go out with a small group, or even by yourself. I remember one morning I couldn't sleep and went to a diner. I ordered the breakfast special and coffee. I was reading a paper or magazine and my coffee cup was filled about three times in about twenty minutes. The waitress was attentive without being annoying and was very sweet. I asked for the check and the total was under $8. Almost everyone I know would have no problem pulling out a ten and leaving it on the table. To me it was obvious that this woman had been there for about seven hours and it was just about the end of her shift. She greated me, served me, and said goodbye with a smile. I left $13.

Now I'm not the be all end all authority on tipping, but I do know this. I tip a lot. I would say a good 35-40% of my dining and drinking out are in tips. People that know me probably think I only mean at the bar, but I tip on takeout even when I pick up if there is a tip cup present. At least $2, no matter how small my meal is. That might seem like a lot in tips, but I would also say I benefit from this and I spend more time than most eating and drinking when I'm out. So in part, I feel like I'm paying the bartenders/wait staff for their time and effort and acknowledging that my leaving, quite possibly would open up a seat for another tipper. When I go out to dinner with some folks, we're in and out in forty minutes. These nights, I don't feel like I have to over tip, because we have become a waiter or waitress' dream. Sit, know what you want, get the food, eat, goodnight. Turning over tables is what it's all it's about, so I figure, our haste made them money too. That being said, I almost never tip less than 20% on a meal.

The 15%, then 18% standard tip is insulting, because in most places the waiter is not getting 100% of that money. So you grab a nice dinner, get appetizer and two drinks each, and skip dessert. It's you and you're date and you sit at the table a good hour plus. The bill comes to $100 and you leave $15 or $18. So what if she has to tip a percentage to the bus staff and the bartenders. Say he/she walks out with two-thirds of that? You just spent an hour getting fed and gave the person working for this $10-12. Seems kinda cheap doesn't it. High school babysitters are getting more than that these days for watching television and eating your food, for free. So would it kill you to give an extra $2-5? The next time you come in to that establishment, I bet your service will be top notch.

I recently went to Morton's with a couple and I had some gift cards. We had appetizers, huge steaks, great cocktails, a fabulous bottle of wine, dessert and after dinner drinks. The bill came to $360 and I figured in $100 tip. A little under 28%. My dinner guest offered to pay the difference on the gift cards and threw down $60 immediately. There was no math involved. We had a great meal, great service, great atmosphere. Sitting and nitpicking over singles, to me would have been insulting. But I don't say this because it was Morton's. I tip takeout based on what I order. I never give less than $3 and that's only if I order from one place which is literally less than a quarter mile away. If it's raining, I don't care who you are or where you are coming from, I'm not tipping less than $5. One Valentine's Day I ordered a pizza and the kid came to the door looking quite dismayed to be working when he could be getting lcuky with his nubile young girlfriend, so I threw him a $10 on a $16 order.

OK, so it sounds like I'm tooting my own horn. No, I'm not. I've never been a waiter or bartender, not do I want to be. The thought of looking across three feet of mahogany and staring at me for eight hours is disturbing. What I do know is that these people do a job I couldn't do. On the phone I can hide my animosity towards civilization, but when that person is right in front of you? Wow, that's hard work. Sure, I get parched every once in a while and when I have to wait five or ten minutes for a drink in an otherwise empty bar, I get a little hot under the collar, but I think about all those times, I hear those magic words "cheers." I don't agree with bartenders who say everyone is treated the same no matter how they tip. If that's the case, here's your $7 tip on my forty-five dollar tab and treat me like everyone else. I refuse to do that. I also don't tip on my tab. I tip on my tab, plus the estimated time I've been there and I do figure in some buybacks into the equation. Especially if they are noticeable. On an almost nightly occurrence I will drop $40 on my tab and $15-20 on my tip. Yes there are times where I might leave that same tip on a $50-60 tab, but I think the number of times I leave that on a $40 makes up for it. I can tell you it doesn't go unnoticed.

I remember a time, four friends and I driving down to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. We stopped at what looked like a little diner next to a gas station. we walked in, gassed up and realized we could walk directly into the restaurant area. We were all starving after 12-15 hours on the road and decided to sit. We noticed an all-you-can-eat buffet that was loaded with seafood. We weren't near New Orleans yet and we weren't even really near water, but we decided to give it a go. The food was excellent and the price even better. I think the total came to about $50 and we all threw in $15 and walked out. The waitress actually followed us to our car to thank us. Maybe it's just me, but it felt good to make someone's night.

I don't know who cares enough to write this much about this topic, but it dawned on me today that I was at a bartender friend's house for a BBQ this weekend. I have had a bartender friend on my mind daily while he battles a disease. I have a bartender/waitress friend I'm going to take to see Lady Gaga (and no it's not a date). I have a bartender/waitress friend who bought me DVD's because she thought I might like them. I have a bartender friend who took me to play golf, for free, at his course. I have a bartender friend, who is now strictly a friend, who I speak to all the time. I know what's going on in many of these people's lives. I talk to them, I call them, I'm on Facebook with them. I care about them and money aside, they care about me. They are people. Hard working people. They don't deserve to be stiffed or slighted. They deserve in return what they give. I just don't think 15% or 18% is enough.