Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Odyssey, Part One

Tom Emery and I went back to Ithaca last weekend for a reunion of the Old Piglets of "L'Auberge du Cochon Rouge".

I thought it would be an easy post.....but it is not working out that way. Meanwhile, one of the salient discoveries of the weekend:

We arrived at 1am, in the fog. We rented our car from Nice Roger at Avis. We got our NoTell motel room from Bitter Phil. We went to Wegman's (who make Whole Foods look like 7-11....more on that....) and bought crazy French cheeses and baguettes at 2am from Larry and Ken....and tried to buy wine from them by claiming it was before 1am in California. We went to the State Diner and talked old times and had hamburgers and shakes delivered by Nancy and Maureen, and made by Bitter Dave, while Fat Mike swept up and washed dishes. Some gang guys came in and we all talked about the morality of the State raising prices after midnight.

In the morning I went to K-Mart and bought a cell phone charger from Jim the Dumbfuck, and paid for it at Alice's register. We later came back and bought an ice chest from Maree, who was under a hundred and cute as hell until she smiled. Dana and Ann helped me find ice and bottled water at the Top Shop, where Dumbfuck Jim's dumber cousin Al checked me out.

Over to Northside Liquor. A long talk with Paul about sparkling wines.....finally settling on a Natur Cava.....though I bought some Doc Frank, a Herman Weimer and some Gruet just for old times sake....and insurance. Another old Mary took my credit card. Young Angus (!!!) carried my stuff out to the rental.

Check out of the motel....leaving a tip for Amy and Jane, the maids.....and dodged past Jake and Jarvis (!!) the maintenance dudes on the way out. Fat Jenny helped me figure out the waffle machine at breakfast, while Vicki got coffee and fresh OJ.

Up to LaTourelle. Hot and cold running bitter 30-somethings in suits...but a great room for $99 a night....with a jacuzzi and a balcony. Met Eileen, Jeff, Chef Jack and Doris from the catering staff and apologized in advance for being an asshole.

Jeff and I shucked oysters for hours and made fandangos at the cabin reception...then meandered over to the new Auberge: John Thomas Steakhouse. Elaine greeted me, maitre d' Clark showed me where to sit. Busboy Adam brought me water all night. Another Fat Eileen seemed to be the cook....I hesitate to say ''chef''. Jim washed up the dishes.

The next morning....I got up early to help Etienne do brunch at the fraternity where he now works. Jeff made me a quick omelette, that LeeAnne brought me. On the way back to my room I shared the elevator with Kevin, the porter. He helps the maids (Anne, Lisa and Jenneen) with the heavy lifting.

"How have you enjoyed your stay? I've seen you around a lot...."

"Great, thanks....It is a very nice hotel."

"What was your favorite part?"

"Well....I really like Jeff the sous chef. He is a good kid. But I really like the jacuzzi in the room....I am recovering from a whole summer of standing on my feet eighteen hours a day."

"Cool....I maintain them....Glad you liked them. They aren't like a hot tub, but they are nice in their own way. There is a big hot tub in the Spa with a big motor if you want. Bye now!"

At the fraternity, the place was trashed from the inevitable party. Not long after we got organized in the kitchen, Todd showed up to sweep up and wash the floors and dishes. Todd also helped us with directions to my old farmhouse on Ellis Hollow Road.

So....the salient observation of the trip: every working person I met was a legal American. Young, old, male, female, white, black, whatever. So much for the myth that only illegals will do "menial" jobs. Kevin did not seem to have gotten the memo that his job is "menial" and that he would be better off collecting $900 a month on a polar bear-5150 social security riff while sitting on his ass smoking rocks, drinking Keystone Light and letting the Mexicans do the work.....Cachagua-style.

I don't know why this is not the reality here. This guy likes his work, likes the people he works with, and likes the people he works for. Probably he is tagging one of the maids, huh? Ah....love is blind.

Wages seemed to match the local economy. The culture seemed intact....lots of mom and pop places, as well as the superstores and chain restaurants.

In Ithaca housing is still cheap. It doesn't take three quarters of your income to rent a room. People seem happy. It was possible to communicate with all of them. Though I am proud of my Spanish....it was a pleasure I could not have imagined to not have to use it for four entire days.


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