Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Go Elf Your Shelf!

Hey, Elf on the Shelf, c’mere, I want to tell you something. Now I know your “boss” forbids you from talking to me, but it’s been made very clear that you can listen, so you better listen and listen good, you backstabbing bastard. Where I come from, snitches get stitches, so if you think I’m just gonna let you sit there all smug on your shelf knowing that as soon as I go to bed you’re gonna race off and rat me out to Santa, you’re even dumber than you look. And that’s saying something.  

Just who the hell do you think you are, anyway? People are nice enough to invite you into their homes, and you repay them by what? Informing on them? How do you sleep at night? Oh, wait, that’s right. You don’t. You’re too busy spilling your guts to the big guy, you two-faced sack of shit! But that’s all about to change. You see, I’m not the only one sick of your shenanigans. Word on the street is if you don’t change your ways, you’re gonna wind up the Elf on the Slab, you pointy eared prick.

So if you don’t want to be “accidentally” run down by a runaway Hess truck, you better start minding your elfin business!  Capisce? Now, no one’s asking you to lie to Santa, they’re just “suggesting” you to stop the snitching. That shouldn’t be too hard, right? I’m sure you must have better things to do with your time. Wouldn’t you rather be painting stripes on candy canes or making toys with the rest of your little buddies? What do you get out of spying for Santa, anyway? Free lederhosen?

You know, you’re starting to look a little nervous. What’s wrong? Does Santa have something on you? Did one of your elvin friends rat you out? Or is Santa blackmailing you for some indiscretion at the office Christmas party? C’mon, you can tell me…

Fine, just sit there. See if I care. But so help me, if I wake up tomorrow and you’re not still sitting there, we’re gonna have problems.  What I do during the day is MY business. If Santa is so concerned about my behavior, he can get off his fat ass and check on me himself. But as far as he knows, I’m Nice. And I plan to keep it that way. Even if that means I have to keep you here. Do we have an understanding? 

I can’t tell from your blank expression, but I trust this little talk has been enlightening.  Regardless of what you may have seen, I’m really not such a bad guy, and I actually get along rather well with the rest of your ilk. Me and the Keebler elves are pretty tight, I’ve spent a lot of time traveling with my gnome, and the Tooth Fairy has always been respectfully treated. The difference is, none of them were snitches.  So learn from your brethren and be the better man. No one likes a rat.

Hopefully this will be the last we speak of this matter, but if you need further proof that I mean business, just take a look at that angel over there. She couldn’t keep her big mouth shut and got a tree shoved up her ass. So unless you want a shelf suppository, remember: What happens in my house stays in my house!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

That Feeling of Christmas

Every year there comes a moment where I remember why it is I like Christmas so much.  I never know when it’s going to happen – it might show up a few weeks before the big day, or maybe even a couple of days after. Sometimes it’s obvious and hard to miss. Others, silent and subtle. But it always manages to find me. It’s usually not in attic, even though I tend to spend an inordinate amount of time in there around the holidays.  And it’s definitely not in the mall, where I spend an incredible amount of money.

 Sometimes it’s in church – either during the Christmas Pageant, when all the kids reenact the whole birth of Christ thing, complete with kids dressed as donkeys - or when the Children’s Choir sings “Silent Night” in the darkened hall, holding flickering candles in their trembling hands.  Both are very nice moments and can usually be counted upon for a goose bump or two.

Other times it’s gotten me at work – wrapping packages for needy families and accepting hand-made gifts, such as the ever-popular “paperweight” (aka chalk coated rock), from kids you know can’t afford anything else are both surefire ways to get the spirit of Christmas flowing.

And speaking of flowing spirits, I can always count on family (and the wine that comes with them) to fill me with cheer.  With so many “sides” to see, things get a bit hectic, but each stop usually provides a moment or two that make it worth the effort.  The food is always good (especially my mom’s walnut chicken). The presents are always appreciated (even Renee’s). And the music, whether it was Vera’s accordion-led sing a longs (RIP), Cousin Christina’s piano solos, or my own holiday Christmix playing in the background, is also a big part of the day.

But it’s typically during the quiet moments that Christmas finds me. Curled up on the couch, squinting at the lights of the tree. Finishing the last glass of wine after most of the guests have gone home.  Watching It’s a Wonderful Life for the hundredth time…

As I get older, the hustle and bustle of the holidays seems to get more stressful, and I wind up wishing I could just conjure the feeling for why we do it. With all the pressure and work that goes into “making” Christmas, I feel myself starting to get a little too anxious for it. I feel the need to go looking for it, but I know I can’t.  So I just go through the motions: buy the gifts, cut the tree, string the lights, wrap the gifts, decorate the tree, play the carols, clean the house, open the gifts, and a thousand other things in hope that the feeling will eventually arrive.

And while I don’t have faith in much, but I do have faith that it’ll come.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Out of Tune?

Whatever happened to carolers? Back in the day, my friends and I would gather and go door-to-door singing holiday songs for our neighbors. Most of them seemed happy to see us, and some even tossed coins or treats our way to reward us for our efforts. It was like a mini-Halloween, only with singing instead of costumes (though I’m sure my voice must have been pretty scary.)

But now, unless they’re some “professional” outfit wandering the malls, or a church group hitting the nursing homes, you never come across carolers. Or at least I don’t. So what happened? Are today’s kids too lazy? Or are their parents too afraid? Was there some anti-caroling campaign I missed?  Did Nintendo come out with wii Carol? I figure something had to happen, because with the popularity of Glee, and flash mobs, it would seem like more kids would be into this aspect of the holiday spirit. But they’re not.

Not that I’m complaining, mind you, as frankly, it’s pretty awkward to be standing in the door, letting all the heat out, while some out of tune urchins screech about Santa in his underwear.  But as a kid, it was fun. We’d steal the songbooks from church so we could practice, and then argue over our set lists. We’d giggle over words like “virgin” and “balls” and try to outlast each other with the longest peeeeee-eeeeeeace at the end of “Silent Night.” We demanded figgy pudding, implored people to come let us adore him, and exposed Santa kissing mothers.  And while very few of us could actually sing, what we lacked in talent, we more than made up for in volume.

And it seemed like we always had the perfect night, where the light of the moon would sparkle the lightly falling snow. We’d trudge up unshoveled walks, mash the doorbell with mittened hands, and start singing before the door was opened. Sometimes it never opened, but we always finished the song anyway. Then we’d go off to the next house.

 We didn’t worry about lawsuits, or pedophiles, or interrupting an episode of “The Dukes of Hazzard.”  Our biggest concern was trying to remember if it was Nine Lords a Leaping or Nine Ladies Dancing. And maybe our neighbors were irritated by our intrusions, but they never let it show. Instead, they’d call for their husbands, ask if we took requests, and offer us some cocoa. And while we always tried to honor their requests, we never took them up on the cocoa. There was no such thing as to-go cups back then, and we had many other houses to hit and many more songs to sing before the night was through. The cocoa could wait until we got home.

Looking back, I suppose our caroling was pretty lame and corny, even by 70’s standards, so I can’t blame today’s kids for their lack of enthusiasm. But if there are any out there willing to give it a shot, my door is always (partially) open. I can’t promise caroling will make you the coolest kid on the block, but you will be the coldest! 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Things I Like About My New Cat

Above is a picture of my new cat, Steve. And below are all the things I like about her:

Have a nice day

Thursday, November 24, 2011


NOTE: This originally ran in the Connecticut Post in November of 2008. My intent was to capture what it was like growing up in my family, so I did not even attempt to account for my wife's family (and their Jell-O addiction) but I would like to dedicate this to the memory of Kathy Cribbins and all the members of our family who are no longer with us at the table, but will always be in our hearts.

As much as I love over-eating and being with family, Thanksgiving was never that big of a deal for me.  It felt more like a day off than an actual holiday – probably due to the lack of presents. It started when I was a kid, when a holiday wasn’t a holiday unless there were gifts involved. And I’m talking about real gifts…from a store.  Not those so-called “gifts” of good health, loving family, and fresh food on the table – I wanted something in a box, or a basket, that I could put batteries in and play with. But year after year Thanksgiving guests would arrive bearing nothing more than smiles and pies, leaving me with nothing to open (unless you count all the walnuts I had to crack for my arthritic aunt.)

It’s not that I disliked the day, it’s just that everything Thanksgiving had to offer, some other holiday did better. Take decorating for example. My family needed the entire month leading up to Halloween, Christmas, and Easter to properly decorate the house for the big day. But Thanksgiving? With maybe an hour to go before the company started arriving, my brother and I would “decorate” by setting out a few pilgrim and Indian candles, filling the cornucopia (but only after we took turns wearing it as a hat), and creating place cards for our guests. For some reason we fought over who got to fill the relish tray with the assortment of sweet pickles and olives, so that became my dad’s job (which he didn’t seem to mind since it gave him the opportunity to steal a couple of olives for his martini before sneaking off to watch football until it was time to carve the turkey.)

My mom’s job was to cook the turkey – a task she approached with the delicate precision of a bomb squad, since she considered the turkey to be a time bomb that would kill us all if not cooked long enough - though she didn’t seem quite so concerned for our health the year she accidentally cooked the turkey with the plastic bag of giblets still stuffed inside – “It’ll be fine” she declared, peeling off the melted pieces of probably toxic plastic. "Just don't eat the middle."

Normally a late riser, she’d set her alarm for 6:00 a.m. Thanksgiving morning in order to put the turkey in the oven so it could cook long enough (a time determined by a complicated formula derived by scientists at NASA, but later made obsolete by Butterball’s pop-up timer.)  She would then spend the rest of the day sticking to a strict basting schedule.

When we were really little, every time she opened the oven to check the turkey (which was quite often) she’d start shrieking and screaming, claiming that it was trying to escape  My brother Joe and I would come running into the kitchen just as she was closing the oven door, wiping her brow with an exaggerated sigh of relief. “Not quite done yet,” she’d say before shooing us back into the living room to continue watching the Macy’s Umpteenth Annual Thanksgiving Day Parade – a six hour snooze fest that she somehow always convinced us to watch.

Which is another area that Thanksgiving was clearly lacking – good TV specials. Christmas had Frosty and Rudolph. Halloween had Charlie Brown. Thanksgiving had…balloons. An endless parade of big boring balloons, their tedious passing narrated by the likes of Lorne Greene, or some other washed-up celebrity, who would share “facts” about them as they floated by. We didn’t care that six people could swim in Snoopy’s supper dish or that Bullwinkle’s nose was so big you could park a Volkswagen in it. All we cared about was seeing Santa, who traditionally brought up the rear of the parade, ushering in the start of the real holiday season.

But the star of Thanksgiving was dinner, which somehow always managed to coincide with half-time. Now most normal families start their feast with a prayer – seeing as how the whole reason for gathering was to give thanks for the food and so forth, but not us. When my mom would ask, “Who wants to say grace?” We’d all yell “Hulford!” -  the last name of our neighbor, and the only Grace we knew.

But what we lacked in prayer, we made up for in toasting. We toasted everyone. Those who were at the table with us, and those who were no longer with us. We toasted the turkey, the stuffing, and even the bread, quite literally one year when my cousin, trying to clink a glass across the table, accidentally tipped a lit candle into the napkin-lined basket of rolls, setting them on fire. After the flames were extinguished, someone (I like to think it was me) held up a burnt roll and said, “Well, you did say you wanted to make a toast!”

Yes, we had the traditional “kiddy table” but it was purely for logistical purposes.  We never felt left out or unwanted, we knew that there was simply not enough room for everyone at the main table. And it didn’t really matter how old you were, if you were someone’s kid, you sat at the kiddy table. Therefore, graduating to the adult table didn’t have that rite of passage feel for us – if a seat opened up, it was only because someone had died (or even worse, was spending Thanksgiving with a girlfriend’s family!)

And while we could fill the seat of a departed loved one, we could never take their place. They brought something to the table that couldn’t be replaced. But we kept them alive by sharing stories and making toasts in their honor so that the new additions to the kiddy table will know what it was like to eat with Grampa, and George, Gramma Rose, Auntie, Uncle Paul, Bobby…

Now that I'm older, I've come to appreciate what a special holiday Thanksgiving really is. Looking back, as much as I liked getting them, I can’t recall a single Christmas gift any of my deceased relatives gave to me. But I do have countless memories of conversations and moments with them from Thanksgivings past – and I know now that it wasn't their gifts I was missing,  it was their presence.

Monday, November 21, 2011

P(raising) the Bar

Porky's, circa ? - see if you can find me, Where's Waldo style!

NOTE:  Call it lazy, but I plan on rerunning my holiday "Greatest Hits"pieces year after year. This would be one of them!

Tomorrow night, aka Thanksgiving Eve, has quietly grown to become one of the busiest bar nights of the year. Whether it's college kids home on break or prodigal sons returning home a bit too early, everyone seems to feel the need to head to their neighborhood bar before spending the big day with their families. 

Here in Shelton, we call it "Valley New Year" and for some reason,  many of the bars we flock to are the same places we desperately avoided growing up. They were dives, places to be steered clear of since that's where our friend’s fathers (and father’s friends) hung out. But somehow, without changing (or cleaning) a single thing, they get transformed, for one night at least, into friendly, lively, homey places where everyone knows your name…or at least your face.

Which is how most of the night is spent: naming names and figuring out faces of all the “friends” and acquaintances bellying up to the bar. They'll look vaguely familiar, but receding hairlines, expanding waist lines, and fake tan lines will make it hard to be sure.  The sad part is that it wasn’t that long ago that you were good buddies, signing yearbooks and claiming to “Never forget the good times...” and now you don’t even remember their names.

On the other hand, people you once passed by in the halls without so much as a nod will be recognizing and hugging you like long lost friends. And who knows, maybe they are!  So just to be safe, give them a hearty “Hey, how’s it going? Good? Good!” greeting and maybe raise a glass in a toasting motion.  And then hope to God they continue on their way, for you will have absolutely nothing else to talk about. 

But they won't go away, and will usually linger for a couple rounds of “Name That Dude,” where the two of you, lacking any real connection, will start naming all of the people you once commonly knew.  So, you still hang out with Greg? Seen Jerry around?  How about Gina?  Once you run out of names, a few moments of uncomfortable silence will follow as the two of you nod and smile insincerely at each other with an, “Isn’t this great, the whole gang’s together!” attitude, until one of you sees someone (anyone) else to go talk to.

And if you're lucky, that someone else might actually be a person you not only recognize, but are truly happy to see.   Unfortunately it will be too loud and crowded to carry on any type of real conversation, so you’ll settle for the quick catch-up, covering the past five years in all of five seconds before reverting back to the old nod and smile. It'll go something like this:

You: “Hey, how have you been? It’s been years since I saw you last! What’s new?”
Them: “Not much. How about you?”
You: “Ah, you know, the usual…”
Them: “Yeah, me too.”

Commence nodding and smiling.  Never mind that during the last five years, one or both of you could have been married, divorced, hired, fired, jailed, bailed, promoted, demoted, and so forth - all of your highs, lows, and in-betweens will be summed up with a simple “not much” and “the usual.”

And maybe that is what’s so appealing about Thanksgiving Eve: that no matter what has passed over the past year (or years), all your hardships and dramas and tragedies suddenly become “not much” and “the usual.”  And that truly is something to be thankful for. 

So whatever your Thanksgiving plans are, try to spend a few hours the night before down at your local bar. Time with the family is great, but it’s also nice to hang out with a roomful of “friends” who don’t really care who you’ve become or what you’ve been doing.  Most are just happy to know your name - and maybe buy a round of drinks that you can raise together in recognition of just how truly great it is that the whole gang is together.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Getting My Bell Rung

The doorbell rang the other day (an unusual occurrence around here - unless my two-year old is pushing the button) and I opened it expecting to find a UPS man or something. Instead I was greeted by a stranger looking to get me to switch cable providers. 

Now, before I go any further, you should know that I can not stand telemarketers. I despise them. Hate them. Rue the day they were born. When they call, I either: A. hang up immediately B. pass the phone off to the aforementioned two-year old and let him "talk" to them, or C. offer to go get "Mr. or Mrs. Wood" and then leave them waiting until they hang up. 

Basically, I don't like attempts at selling me things in my own home. I don't care if you're a Girl Scout, Jehovah's Witness, or political candidate - if I want what you have to offer, or am looking for information, I am more than capable of contacting you or finding it for myself. 

But here was this guy offering me a money saving opportunity that I was actually considering just a few days before, so I gave him a few moments of my time. He was nice enough, a little nervous, but seemingly on the up and up, so I gave him my phone number asked him to call me back on Monday after I had some time to look things over, compare offers, squeeze my current cable provider for a discount, etc. We agreed on a time, shook hands, and went on our merry ways.

Then, two days later, at dinnertime, the doorbell rings again, and it's him. And while I may come across here as a take no prisoners, call it as I see it sort of guy, in person, I'm rather timid. I never send food back in a restaurant. I don't confront neighbors about obnoxious fireworks. I accept less than stellar service with a smile. But for some reason, I let this poor guy have it. Before he even had a chance to open his mouth, I laid into him about how unacceptable it was to show up at my house, that we were in the middle of dinner, yada yada yada. 

He got all flustered and started fumbling through his binder, and assuming he was looking to leave me with more information about his cable company, I cut him off and said I didn't need any more pamphlets and I was not interested in any of his offers. And that's when the poor guy hands me the paper he was looking for, which turned out to be a printout of a writing website his sister had created (It had come up in our first conversation that I was a teacher) that he thought I might be interested in. 

I felt horrible, but already committed to being a dick, I took the paper without comment and sent him on his way. I closed the door, feeling none of the manly pride one might expect after going to battle with the enemy. In fact, I felt like a real jerk. So much so that I sent the following letter to his sister's website in hopes that he might get it. 

"Dear Mike, I want to apologize for the way I  treated you. I know you were just doing your job, and sales are hard to come by these days, but I was REALLY put off by your second visit to my home. To tell you the truth, I was put off by your FIRST visit as well, but since I don't even like when friends or family stop by unannounced, I let it slide. But regardless, you still didn't deserve to be treated like that. Had you been some pushy jerk or intimidating individual, I wouldn't have thought twice about brushing you off, but you seem like a genuinely sweet and sincere man, and should have been treated accordingly. Point is, I feel terrible about being such a jerk to you (not bad enough to sign up for Comcast, mind you, but still pretty bad!) and I wish you success in your endeavors. 

Speaking of, not to dismiss the job you have, but I also hope you find something better suited to your skills and personality that WON'T put you in the line of fire from jerks like me. You have such a warm presence about you that it seems a shame that it's being "wasted" on pimping cable! But I know we all got to eat, and jobs are scarce, and sometimes we just have to make the best of it - and I'm truly sorry that your job led to you seeing me at MY worst. 

I hope you know that my reaction to you at my doorstep had nothing to do with YOU as a person, as I think you would make a great neighbor, it's just I really don't like intrusions, or even surprises for that matter! I hope this message finds its way to you, and if it does, that you will accept my apology. Sincerely, Mike Wood"

This is not to say I'm going to hug the next a-hole who tries to spray me with cologne in the mall, but I am going to try to remember that he's just doing his job and politely decline. As for the telemarketers, they can continue to talk with Eli. 

Friday, November 11, 2011


1st Lt Dan Rector and his sons before he deployed to Iraq

My nemesis, Renee, just asked why I didn’t have a blog post about Veterans Day. My initial response to her was that I knew my limitations and didn’t feel capable of capturing such a BIG story with my silly sensibilities. I was afraid my sarcastic tone and self-effacing style would come across as disrespectful and that my take on the topic would be inconsequential.  So I decided to do the right thing and keep my mouth shut.

 But as I was gearing up for a rare mid-morning bike ride, courtesy of a day off in honor of the holiday, I started to feel guilty.  How could I enjoy the day knowing so many have sacrificed their lives and livelihoods in order for me to do so, without at least acknowledging their service?  

So here I sit, struggling to come up with the words to convey what their bravery has meant to me - feeling foolish even using the word “struggle”  - like it’s a real freakin’ hardship for me to be sitting safely in my warm(ish) kitchen typing on my expensive laptop while sipping some hot tea, and just now taking a break to talk to my mother on the phone. Our servicemen and women would love for the opportunity to do such simple, everyday things, and here I am whining about how "hard" it is for me to thank them?  How messed up is that?

I try to convince myself that living the good life and enjoying every day is the best way to show my appreciation for the sacrifices of others. But deep down, I know it’s the lazy way. Reflecting on their courage while blithely going about my business doesn’t do much but make me feel better. But what about them?  Even at my most sincere, my selfish inclination would be to talk about how much their actions have meant to me. But what about them? Is it even possible to show such gratitude? Can anyone really pay them back for what they’ve given up?

It’s such a daunting task, I can’t even begin to think about it. Throwing money at the problem seems like the easy way out – but even if I had the money, how much would make up for a lost leg, damaged mind, or missing time with a loved one?  A million dollars? Two? And even then, no amount is ever going to bring any of it back. 

So what can I do? I like to think I do what I can by flying flags in their honor, participating in moments of silence, nodding gratefully at them in airports, clapping for them at parades, crying at the sad news, getting angry and the bad, and cheering for the good, but I know it’s not nearly enough. I can tie a yellow ribbon around every oak tree I see and it would still only be a token gesture. A pitiful way to make me feel better about not being one of the brave ones. 

But for what it’s worth, I offer my simple and heart-felt thank you. Thank you for doing the things I don’t even like to read about. Thank you for enduring things I don’t want to hear about. And thank you for giving up the things I never want to go without.

And Renee, screw you for making me do this!!!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Don't Let Life Path You By!

Since moving into our new home, I’ve been pretty much riding the same trails damn near daily for the past year or so.  My “problem” is that even though there are dozens of great trails within a half an hour’s drive, I really don’t see the point in getting in my car to ride my bike, so I tend to stick to the ones close to home. But after 300 trips down the same path, things were starting to get a little boring.

So the other morning I decided to mix things up a bit and ride my route backwards. Wait, before you get the wrong idea, let me clarify: I wasn’t facing backwards on my bike, which would be sort of cool, I just went in reverse order, so that my usual starting point was my new ending point.

And not to get all Zenny on you and stuff, but that simple change of perspective turned my well-worn routine into an unexpected and exciting journey. Everything was the same, yet completely different. Gear grinding “ups” transformed into freewheeling downs. Rocks became ramps. Boulders become rollers. It was a brand new experience. So much so that I even managed to get lost…twice, which was strange considering I was in completely familiar territory.

I returned home invigorated and looking forward to my next ride. All from a simple change in my routine.  Which got me thinking about all my other habits and tendencies. Could they also be switched up in order to get a similar charge? 

Turns out doing my ironing in the morning, instead of at night, didn’t make for a more exciting start to the day. It just made me late for work.  And my plan for entering the house through the seldom used front door, instead of the usual kitchen door, just made me realize I hadn’t gotten around to fixing the wobbly front step.

But before I go burying my real point in my typical foolishness, let me break from that routine as well and get right to it….

 The reason life seems to pass so much faster after thirty has nothing to do with getting older. It’s just that so much of our lives have become routine by that point, we don’t take the time to experience it.

Think about it. Our first 20 years had milestones every ten feet. EVERYTHING was a new experience. First words, first steps, first grade, first kiss, first beer, first car, first time… Every day seemed to bring something new and unfamiliar, forcing us to pay attention and notice every moment. But once you hit thirty, not much new happens. Our routines and roles are established and familiar. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, since there’s comfort in predictability and reliability. But too much comfort breeds complacency, so every once in a while, we need to step out of our comfort zones and try something new.

Much in the same way we wind up on autopilot when driving the same way, every day, to work, life is passing us by without our being aware of it. One day blends into the next, and before you know it, a year has passed. Then three. Then five.  Now, I’m not advocating simply stopping to smell the roses. In fact, I’m against it. For one thing, we have to deal with enough pricks as it is. And another, it’s really not about stopping at all. It’s about starting something.  

So find a way to add more "Firsts" to your day. And I don’t mean finding your first gray hair or feeling the first signs of menopause. I’m talking about taking those first steps towards doing something new. Or even revisiting something old. As my reverse bike ride proved, it doesn’t require a huge undertaking to put off the inevitable visit from the undertaker. It just takes a willingness to break from the old routines and try something different.

They say time flies when you’re having fun, but what they don’t tell you is that it flies even more when you’re having none. We may not be able to turn back our clocks like we did this past Sunday, but we can still turn back.  I know life is supposed to be about moving forward, but that doesn’t mean it’s a race to the end. So skip the shortcuts, move into the slow lane, and enjoy the ride. From both directions!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The First Snow "Fall"

I try not to tackle too many timely topics on this blog, as I don’t want future readers scratching their heads over references that were mere flashes in the pan. I’d rather discuss the things that are cast in iron. Eternal things.  Universal things. Things like Jell-O Wars, or Icy Hotting my privates, or where to buy my book: Alchemy. You know, important stuff.  But the recent snow storm on the East Coast was so destructive and disruptive, I felt obligated to cover it. I figured since so many were covered in it, and many are still trying to recover from it, it was the right thing to do.

And when it comes to dealing with inclement weather and the power outages it brings, I typically do all the right things. I have 6 propane tanks, 5 gallon water jugs, 4 cans of gas, 3 days of food, 2 emergency exits, and 1 generator. NONE OF WHICH WERE READY FOR THIS STORM!  Sure, I heard the reports, but did not take them seriously. I saw the forecast, but did not believe it. In fact, I blithely drove past several gas stations, in the snow, knowing I had less than a quarter tank of gas, yet never even considered stopping to fill up. Had it been December, I would have made sure that, and everything else, was taken care of. But it was October. I still had my lawn furniture and fire pits out, hoping to have another outdoor party or two before winter came.  It was 60 degrees the day before. I rode my bike to work. It wasn’t going to snow. And even if it did, it wasn’t going to last.

But winter came like Forrest Gump on Jennie’s roommates robe, only I was the one caught with my pants down.  So when the snow piled up and the power went out, I was without my generator, which was loaned out during the hurricane. Not that it mattered, as the fuel cans needed to fill it were sitting empty in my garage. Next to the empty water jugs that we could have used for flushing toilets, along with the broken snow shovel I had planned to replace this season. Inside the house, things weren’t much better. My cell phone was uncharged, Kindle battery depleted, and snack cabinet nearly empty.  Even our gas fireplace, which we typically used for ambiance, but could have used for heat, was not working.
We did have plenty of wine, thank god, and we made good use of it to flush our toilets. Just kidding. That’s what the Miller Lite was for! But the wine did help bring a flush to our chilly cheeks. I also managed to find some flashlights and get the fireplace functioning without any major gas leaks or explosions and we settled in for a long winter’s night in the middle of fall.

Speaking of fall, a loud noise from the deck announced that the gazebo I had neglected to winter proof had collapsed under the weight of the snow, and had come crashing down on the outdoor firetable I had also neglected to stow away, while smashing the outdoor chandelier that I had failed to bring in.  Are we starting to see a pattern here? 

With nothing else to do,  I went to bed and awoke the next morning in a 47 degree house. My two-year old and I had fun snuggling on the couch pretending to be dragons with our frosty breath, but the novelty quickly wore off.  Reports that the power might be out “for a while” had my wife and I emptying the fridge and packing the perishables in snow.  With four toilets in the house, we were all able to claim one as our own and use them without too much discomfort  - my brilliant plan of filling Gatorade coolers with snow and using the melting water to flush the toilets had failed, since, well, it turns out coolers are made to keep things cool. But my son had fun making snowballs with it in the living room.

And while our frontier forefathers would be ashamed, after only 24 hours of no lights, heat, water, or internet, we gave up and headed to my wife’s father’s, who still had power, for showers, coffee, and Giant’s football. On the way, we were shocked at the amount of damage we saw. The roads were completely clear of the snow that had started all of this, but were literally covered with downed trees and power lines.  It was both awesome and awful to see.

An hour later, from the warm comforts of my father in law’s living room and a belly full of hot soup, I sat and read through the day’s paper and watched the local news reports on the storm, and I have to admit, there was some comfort in knowing that I was not the only one unprepared for it. Even the trees were not ready, as I learned that bare branches and frozen sap helps them withstand the harsh weather. But since there was no time for this to happen naturally, many were destroyed.  Compared to them, I was lucky.

But I can’t count on luck to save me again. Which is why the first thing I did when the power came back on, after flushing the toilets, was to fill those water jugs. That way, the next time shit happens, I’ll be ready! And Robert, if you’re reading this, I’ll be coming to get my generator.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Busing Them Off

Dear School Bus Drivers,

            I’m a teacher and a parent, but at the risk upsetting my constituents, I'm asking you to consider the following suggestion: The next time you’re waiting at a stop for a late student and the kid comes (meat) loafing down the sidewalk like he has all the time in the world, drive off and leave his lazy butt behind!

I'm sure you must have to bite your toungue as you bide your time waiting on these kids, because I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to sit in my car watching some punk slowly walking down the road while the rest of the world waits behind your flashing red lights. And it honestly has nothing to do with making me late for work. A few lost minutes isn’t going to make a difference in my day, I just can’t stand the smug, screw you looks on their faces as they saunter down the street like they’re the only ones that matter.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it is commendable that you are willing to patiently and politely wait for these pokey passengers, but in the long run, you’re really not doing them, or us, any favors. For one thing, the real world is not going sit idly by while they leisurely go about their business, and the sooner they realize this, the better. Plus, if they’re showing such little respect and consideration for you, the kids on the bus, and the people behind it now, can you imagine what they’ll be like as adults?

I know nobody’s perfect, and we all oversleep from time to time. But when we’re running late, we literally run. Yet these kids just shuffle along like they’re doing you a favor by boarding your bus.  They expect you to be on time, don’t they? And they’re the first to complain when you’re ten seconds late, right? So if I were you, the next time I spotted some slug strolling down the street, I’d shut the door and hit the gas. Then maybe next time they’ll put a little zip in their doo dah.

Of course I know you value your jobs way too much to actually heed my words, but if you are crazy enough to try it out (and some of you are!) please make sure your first victim isn’t some kid on crutches, or a chubby kid making an effort to hurry it up.  And if he or she happens to be handicapped, or the only minority kid on your route, you should probably wait for them as well. But anyone else is fair game.

            They need to realize that “No Child Left Behind” only applies in the classroom, and in order to get there, they need to move their behinds a little quicker to get to the bus on time.  

                                                                        Tired of seeing red,

                                                                                                            Mike Wood

Monday, October 10, 2011

Seeing Red

Is the phrase Indian Summer as racially insensitive as Indian Giver? I hope not, as I have no other way to describe the unseasonably warm weather we’ve had over the past few days – coincidentally over Columbus Day weekend. And since we all know how he treated the Indians, I want to ensure that I am being sensitive and politically correct in my wording. If our children are now being told to sit criss cross apple sauce, instead of Indian style, then maybe I should mind my manners as well.

It’s a good thing I’m not an Atlanta Braves fan, who routinely mine, or mock, the Native American culture with their “Tomahawk Chop” and Chief Noc-A-Homa mascot. Or a Cleveland Indians fan, with their racially insensitive Chief Wahoo logo. As for the Washington Redskins, while their logo seems respectful enough, their name leaves a lot to be desired. Redskins? Really? They claim it honors the Native American cultures, but I’m not convinced.  They also point out that very few Native Americans have complained, which I’m sure is true, seeing as how the majority of them have been wiped out! And the rest are too busy running their casinos to worry about it.

Oops, did I just make a joke? Was it insensitive to portray the surviving members of our once proud Indian tribes as casino operators?  Probably. Was it funny? Not really. Is it true? Sort of.

And therein lies the problem with political correctness. In order to avoid upsetting anyone with “insensitive” comments, one has to sidestep the truth and skip over the obvious, and to me, that’s more demeaning than just being honest.  Is it really better to ignore all the bad things that have happened in the past and pretend like all is forgotten?  And if so, then what happens to the good things?

From what I’ve seen in museums, many Indians did sit on the ground with their legs crossed.  So why can’t our kids sit Indian style? And apparently scalping was a common practice, so if I want to complain about a bad haircut, is it really hurting an Indian’s feelings? Or the hairdressers?

As for the color thing, I can sort of understand and respect the argument that for, say, the black community, phrases like “black list” and “black ball” and “black sheep” seem to imply that black equals bad. And most of the “red” phrases aren’t much better. Getting caught red handed is bad. Being in the red is bad. Red tape? Bad. Red flag? Bad. The problem is, this same argument could be used with any color: a white elephant is something that has no value, white bread is considered plain and boring, and a white flag is used to quit or surrender. While on the flip side, getting invited to a black tie affair and receiving the red carpet treatment are good things.

At the end of the day, we just need to respect each other as individuals. Color and culture shouldn’t define who we are or decide whom we associate with. If we can feel comfortable with each other, we can laugh at, and with, each other. Admit it, Chief Noc-a-homa is a funny name. And if we all started looking for the humor in things, we might be less likely to find hate.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Have We Met?

My son, Eli, after over two years, decides that TODAY he is going to attach himself to a stuffed animal. Or in his case, a stuffed Mr. Met. As the picture above clearly shows, at 6 months of age, he LOVED Mr. Met. For about 3 minutes. Long enough to take some cute pictures. But since then,  he has shown no affinity for blankies, bears, woobies, or lovies. Then came this morning.

It was "Bring Your Favorite Stuffed Animal to School" day, and not wanting him to be left out, I coaxed him into choosing one to bring to school - after digging out the box of teddy bears from his closet, where they have been for over a year since we moved. He rejected the Jerry Bear I offered. Dismissed the manatee I held up. Shook his head at the fluffy lamb. But agreed to take Mr. Met.

Eight hours later, he was still clinging to him. They played together, Napped together. Went to the potty together. I took him shopping with me after work, and Mr. Met came with us. And until ten minutes ago, he was in the crib with him.

I'm not sure if this makes me a bad dad or not, but I just now snuck in and quietly removed Mr. Met from beside my sleeping son and stuffed him back in the closet. This pains me as a Met fan, but I really don't want my kid lugging around a stuffed animal. Or mascot. I figure if he's made it this far, why mess with success? But I leave it up to you. Did I do the right thing?


CODA:Most of you will be happy to know that at 6:15 this morning, when I went upstairs to wake Eli  for school, he popped right up and immedietely started looking around his crib. He lifted his pillow. He checked under his blanket. "Where's Met?" he asked. I instantly caved and said, "Maybe he went back in the closet." I made a show of being surprised that he was in there and handed him over to my happy boy. What the hell, I figured.  Chances are this will be the only pleasure he ever gets from the Mets, so might as well enjoy it while it lasts.

Reunited and it feels so good!

Monday, September 26, 2011

My Dictates the Best!

With the exception of this paragraph, every word in this post was "written" using a dictation program. But just in case the explanation for this experiment does not come across clearly below, I wanted you to know that I am intentionally publishing it as is, with no editing or correcting, to test out the program. So if I seem even more incoherent than usual, it's not my fault! NOTE: After finishing, I went back and added parenthetical "translations" for things I clearly remember saying that the program got wrong)

It's been well documented that I don't like to write. As much as I enjoy the attention, the accolades, and the little extra money, actually sitting down to write is not something I make time to do. I know good part of it is they really feel selfish. To me there a lot of other more important things I should be doing rather than sitting in the basement typing away. Then there's the act of typing itself. With hands mangled from a variety of accidents and incidents, I'm basically a mobster (human lobster). So when I heard about a dictation program that would type for me as I spoke, I jumped at the chance.

Look before you leap is all I have to say. The 1st problem I countered with $150 program was that when (it wouldn't) run with the current operating system I have for my Mac. So rather than try to figure out how to upgrade from Buffalo to Leopard to lie in (Lion!) I decided to bite the bullet and buy a MacBook Air (holy shit, not only did it recognize the name, it formatted it properly!). Two days and 1000 votes (bucks) later I have a Macbook.  Problem two came when I realize that in their book (Airbook) does not have a distress drive (disc drive), so to me good 4 hours figure how to sync it with my other computer.

Problem 3K Massie (came as I) try to sit down and use it. In addition to the errors such as you're seeing here, sitting in a room talking to yourself is not conducive to writing. It might be great for fire off a couple e-mails, but I found the creative process is definitely halted when one must actually put his thoughts to spoken words. This terrible type or I am, I am much better at keeping up with my thoughts than this program.  For this program to work effectively, you really have to speak in slow measured bursts. For example, this sentence was read at a rate that would make Ben Stein seem exciting. But when I read the same sentence at normal speed it looks like this: for example the sentences read a rate that would make them sign some exciting. See the difference?

Lastly, there's the fact that I refuse to refer to myself as an author, since I'm self published, which makes me wonder if I could I even call myself a writer if I don't actually write?

Again I'm not badmouthing the program – ha ha - get it? bad mouth? dictation software? It is just not working the way I was hoping - or better yet, I'm not working the way I was hoping. So looks like I'm going back to the old-fashioned way: my 2 finger tap dance across the keyboard. Meaning if you're looking for my next book, check back in 10 years. Or, as my dictation program might say, tobacco deniers!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Bad Things Aren't Supposed to Happen to Us

The picture above is of me, my brother, and two of our oldest (and still closest) friends, Chrissy Feltovic and Mary Callahan. I'm not sure what Mary is doing, she's either laughing or frightened by something behind Chrissy's back. But either way, it's typical Mary: always in the picture, but never one to seek the spotlight. Unlike the rest of us, who, along with Chrissy's sister Nicole, were  constantly fighting to be the center of attention while spending nearly every moment of our childhood together. But that was the only real fighting we did - for no matter how heated our games of Kick the Can, Hide and Seek, and Spud got, the five of us always stuck together. Quite literally at times, as our “bases” had what we called Electricity. 

For the uninitiated, a "base" is the designated safe spot in a game (a front porch, a large rock, or even a lamp post) where if you were standing or touching it, you couldn't get tagged, out, caught, etc. And Electricity allowed us to work together to rescue a slow-running teammate who couldn’t reach the safety of base by creating a human chain. As long as one person kept so much as a toe on base, anyone holding their hand (or the hand of the person holding their hand!) received the full benefits of base.

Once, one of us (probably me) got tired of being “It” and tried to disrupt the flow of Electricity by busting through the line and breaking the chain, but a rule was quickly created that made such moves illegal. The logic being that anyone doing so in real life would be electrocuted, so therefore it couldn’t be allowed in the game.

We were great at making rules, but all honesty we didn't have a whole lot of them to follow. We were lucky in that our parents gave us every opportunity to explore and grow on our own. They made sure we were safe(ish), but not sheltered. As long as we were home by the time the streetlights came on, we were free to do whatever our young hearts desired. Of course as we got older, some of our hearts started desiring each other, but even that was done in a playful sort of way. 

And now we’re all grown up with kids of our own. But sadly, society has made it difficult to raise our kids the way we were raised. The world no longer feels as safe. Neighbors no longer seem so kindly. And streetlights no longer come on at a preset time, if at all. But my friend Mary is one of the brave ones. She and her husband are throwing over-caution to the wind and letting their two young boys skateboard down the sidewalk, build igloos in the snow, and melt crayons on light bulbs the way we once did. To do so, they had to overextend themselves to buy a nice house in a safe neighborhood with great schools so their kids could have the best. They committed to working long and hard during the week so they're kids could play just as hard on the weekends.

But life has thrown Mary and her husband, Jimmy Kelleher, a curveball. Jimmy was recently diagnosed with MSA, and after only a year, his symptoms  have made it impossible for him to continue working,  driving, and playing with his kids with the same energy that he once did. To tell you the truth, I'm too afraid to look up MSA to see what the exact prognosis is, but I know it's not good. What I do know is MSA means multiple system atrophy, and it’s a disease similar to Parkinson's but much less treatable. In fact there is no cure.

It's often said that for parent, the death of a child is the absolute worst thing to deal with. But knowing you may not be around to watch your children grow up has to come a close second. Jimmy is a great dad, a loving husband, and a loyal friend, and not being able to provide for all the people in his life has to be the most difficult part of all of this for him.

And to that end, the old neighborhood gang is teaming up with Mary's family to host a benefit to help raise some much-needed money. You should know right up front that the money will not go to help find a cure for MSA. It will not be used for research or scholarships. The money will go to help pay the mortgage and settle some bills, with hopefully enough left over for some Christmas presents. Our goal is a relatively small one, but we hope that the money raised will not only help alleviate some of the financial burden, but also the emotional one Jimmy has been carrying over no longer being able to provide for his family’s needs. We hope that Jimmy recognizes that this is not charity. It is payback for all the wonderful things he has done for people in need. The money we raise will truly have been earned by Jimmy the same as if he were punching the clock. 

But even so, Mary and Jimmy were reluctant to go the benefit route when we first brought it up to them. As I mentioned, Mary is not one to seek attention, and both are very private people when it comes to personal matters, so the fact that they would even consider letting us do a fundraiser made it clear to me how desperate things had become. 

When I said we grew up playing games, I meant it literally. Those games taught us how to deal with life as adults. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. It's not always fair. But even so, some things just weren't supposed to happen to us. Bad things were not supposed to happen to us. Bad things happen to the people you read about in the papers, or watch on the news. Bad things happen to cousins of coworkers. Bad things happen to strangers, and leave you thinking, “Oh how terrible…” before resuming your own life.

But a bad thing has happened to one of our own, and as much as we want to, we can't change the rules. We can't demand a do over, or holler, “Ollie Ollie Oxen Free!” We can't take our ball and go home. Life for Jimmy is no longer a game, but we are hoping that the powers of Electricity are still as strong today as they were back then. And we need you all to join the chain, to come together and reach out to help our friend enjoy the safety of base.


Here is the link to the facebook page: Benefit for Jimmy Kelleher and the info from the page: FRIENDS AND FAMILY OF JIM & MARY (CALLAHAN) KELLEHER 

TICKETS: $25 per person - Price includes Beer, Wine & Food

--- Great Raffle Prizes ---
--- Good Food ---
--- Music & Open Mic ---
--- Silent Auction ---

Jimmy Kelleher has been diagnosed with multiple system atrophy (MSA) 
A progressive neurodegenerative disorder that has taken away his 
independence and the family’s financial security. 
To learn more about MSA go to: www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/msa

If you are unable to attend, please consider sending a donation, no amount is too small. Donations are being accepted via CASH, Check - payable to Mary Kelleher or PayPal to: jimkfund@yahoo.com

For tickets contact Tim Callahan@203-996-4511 or Robby Reed@203-605-6183

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Eyes Have it!

In a weird way, a hurricane is sort of like Christmas. The days leading up to it are spent frantically preparing and ensuring that you have everything you need. The night before its arrival is spent lying awake in bed anxiously wondering what the morning will bring. You wake up early the next day to see what you got, then spend the rest of the day comparing with your friends and checking in on family. Oh, and eating. Lots and lots of eating. Then, 24 hours later, it's all over - save for the mess to clean up and bills to pay.

And just like the holidays, there are people who are grateful for the littlest things and those who complain that it's not enough. I can sort of understand the later attitude when it comes the presents, but storm damage? Really? It doesn't make sense to me that one could be disappointed with a lack of destruction. Yet there were countless people complaining that the severity of the storm did not live up to the hype. They were bemoaning all the extra batteries they bought, and griping about the gallons of milk in their still working fridges.

Granted, I'm as greedy as the next guy, but when it comes the storms, less is always more. I spent the sunny days leading up to the hurricane preparing the house, hoping that all my work would be for nothing. And I'm grateful to say, it was. Other than a small leak that managed to find its way into the bathroom I was remodeling, we suffered zero damage. The storm left us with our power still on, trees still standing, and basement dry.

And I was happy. But as I surveyed our yard looking for something to do, I couldn't deny there was some sort of strange feeling of... anti-climax. Like when you feel a sneeze coming on and it suddenly disappears - part of you is grateful that you don't need a tissue, but there’s a small part of you that feels unsatisfied. A good sneeze relieves all that built-up pressure, but a stifled one just leaves you wondering, what do I do now?

And that's how I felt, as I skimmed our pool of leaves with the sound of generators humming and chainsaws buzzing all around me. I was grateful that that was all I had to do, but felt guilty that that was all I had to do. And to be completely honest, more than a little wimpy. There I was, circling the pool with a glorified butterfly net while my neighbors were wielding power tools.  I suppose some people would have saw such good luck as an opportunity to relax and read or sit inside and watch TV all day, but after all the dire predictions, I needed to get my hands dirty. So I put the skimmer down and walked over to the neighbors to lend a helping hand.

We spent the afternoon chainsawing the tree that nearly took out his house, dragging the branches into the woods and rolling the logs behind the shed. After a celebratory Budweiser, we set our sights on another neighbor’s tree that was blocking the road. Once that was cleared away, we patted ourselves on our aching backs and went to our respective homes for well-deserved dinners.

Later that night, my nephew showed up looking to borrow my generator. Like 50% of our town, he had no power, and with 4 young kids and a Koi pond full of gasping fish, he could really use the energy. So we loaded it into my truck, along with 10 of the 20 gallons of gas I had purchased, and brought it back to his house.

I should have slept well that night, knowing I had assisted a neighbor in need, helped clear our road, and even saved the lives of some ridiculously expensive fish - but I couldn’t help feeling guilty about those less fortunate than I. Granted, like the grasshopper in the fable, my hard work on a sunny day may have had something to do with how little damage we received during the storm, but that didn't make it right to ignore the plight of the ants.

When it comes right down to it, aren't we all just little ants?  We scurry about, building our little towers of sand, trying to pretend like we know what we’re doing, ignoring the fact that Mother Nature can squash us with even the slightest of steps. And whether her acts are willfull or accidental, it doesn’t matter, because it’s our actions afterwards that really count. No matter how much we prepare, we must be ready to repair.  And more importantly, help others to do the same. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

There's a "Place" for Us...and You!

An atypically empty picture of The Place

NOTE: I know Tuesdays are supposed to be NEW post days, but today is my wedding anniversary, so I'm taking it off! Taking it all off baby! But I won't leave you completely hanging. Since we made our annual pilgrimage to The Place last night, I thought it would be a good time to rerun my review of it that originally appeared in the Connecticut Post several years ago.

This is going to be the best summer ever!”  was the prediction/promise I heard every June from the time I was 8 up until I turned 22. Okay, maybe 27, but only because some of my friends matured slower than savings bonds! And every year they had a different reason why that particular summer was going to rock:  First it was because someone got a pool. Then it was that we were finally sixth graders (still not sure what privileges that entailed, but we sure were excited at the time.) Later it was that we had our driver’s licenses (or an older cousin’s driver’s license, which we could use to buy beer, so long as one of us could grow a foot…and a beard.) Our 18th summer was going to be “the best one ever” because we could rent (and trash) a cottage on the beach.

Looking back, I can’t remember which summer truly was the best (probably because our last few were spent following the Grateful Dead) but even if I could recall, I probably couldn’t come up with an answer. For one thing,  I still have summers left to live. Plus, unlike my friends, I don’t like putting such labels on my experiences because I don’t go into them with such high expectations. In fact, I’ve found that the “best” times happen when I’ve least expected them.  

It seems like the bigger, more elaborate, or highly anticipated the event, the less likely I am to have a good time. Invite me to a luau that you spent a year planning (and paying) for, complete with pig roast and hula girls, and I’m the dud leaving before getting lei’d.  But throw an impromptu picnic and I’m the life of the party. I’ve had more fun tubing down the Housatonic than cruising the Caribbean. It’s like the more pressure I feel to have a good time, the less capable I am of doing so.  And no, I don’t have social anxiety, so don’t send me any Paxil. Nor do I want any Viagra-like pills designed to help get my expectations up – I like them just where they are…low.

Like the old Wall Street wisdom of buying low and selling high, having low expectations has helped enrich my life.  It sounds silly, but by not expecting much, I almost always get what I want. Plus, I’m rarely disappointed, and am often pleasantly surprised. Who could ask for more? Note: this isn’t some sort of slacker mentality - I still do a lot of hard work…I just don’t expect it to pay off!

So, when my low expectations and I (along with my wife and a few friends from work) went for dinner at The Place in Guilford, I wasn’t counting on being overly impressed.  From what I had already heard about The Place, I was picturing something along the lines of glorified tailgating, minus the tickets to the game. Not much to write home (or a column) about. But, as usual, I got what I expected, and then some.

The first thing you’ll notice about The Place is that it really isn’t an actual place so much as a space, with very little differentiating the parking lot from the eating area, save for the tree stumps, which will be the second thing you’ll notice. The eating area is stocked with tree stumps of various shapes and sizes which serve as seats, as well as foundations for the plywood table tops, so find a stump that suits your rump and have a seat.  You might want to bring your own cushion, or even a chair, to make things more comfortable.

Speaking of bringing things, The Place has a BYOB policy – actually more of a BYO A-Z policy, since you can bring in basically anything within reason to supplement your dining experience, from alcoholic beverages to side dishes to zabaglione (or any other obscure Italian dessert.) Some people even bring table cloths, candelabras, etc. to dress up their table, but The Place really isn’t a place for pretensions, or dressing up, as you will get messy. Which brings us to the food.

            While sitting on a stump in a parking lot across from a Wal-Mart does have its charms, it is the food that brings the people in, and keeps them coming back. Clams get top-billing on The Place’s billboard of a menu, and seem to be the biggest draw. Rated “best non-fried clams on earth” by U.C.L.A. (United Clam Lovers of America) they are served hot off the rack with a splash of secret sauce, and they are delicious. Even my wife, who has never had a clam in her life, was tempted to try one. She didn’t like it, but she loved the corn, served fire roasted and still in the husk. Other offerings include fresh lobsters, fish, chicken, and steak, all cooked over open flame and served with minimal flare.
             We left The Place happy, full, and slightly grimy – and truly impressed with how they managed to do so much with so little.  The Place turned out to be my kind of place. I didn’t expect much, but that’s exactly what I got!

The Place
891 Boston Post Road
Guilford, Connecticut