Restaurant Rights and Race

Last weekend, I met up with Margie and Suze at the Barnes and Noble in Union Square. We’ve been friends since we all started at our first jobs at Simon and Schuster on the 16th floor of the Gulf and Western building, now a Trump building, in Columbus Circle 1987. We still talk several times a week and meet up in the city as often as we can get away from our families.

The routine is always the same. We meet up at a bookstore and then roam through the neighborhood stores talking non-stop and then eventually end up in a restaurant for more non-stop chatter. It’s good to have old friends.

It was a blustery day, so we ended up in restaurant quickly after brief visits to ABC Carpets and Fishes Eddy. As we settled into several plates of dumplings and scallion pancakes at a Chinese restaurant, a commotion broke out around us. A guy who was working outside the building got into a shouting match with the restaurant owner. He wanted to use the bathroom without buying any food. The owner blocked his way to the bathroom and said that the bathroom was only for customers. The worker yelled that he just wanted to use the toilet and leave. After lots of yelling, the worker finally left.

And because race and restaurants are in the news, I have to say that the worker was African American. The owner and the customers were white or Asian.

We got into a debate at the table. One of us thought that the owner should have let the guy use the toilet. He was in a construction outfit. He was clearly not a homeless guy. She felt that the worker’s race was one of the reasons why he was shuffled out of the restaurant.

Another friend said that restaurant owners never let non-customers use the toilet. Anybody who is in New York City knows that you can’t use a toilet in a restaurant without buying anything, and you have to know where the open-use toilets are, like the second floor of that Barnes and Noble.

Who was right?

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SL 721

Getting tons done without a kid or a kitchen contractor in the house. I’m in heaven.

Are you watching Roseanne?

Students are less likely to take additional classes in a subject, if their intro class is taught by an adjunct, rather than a full-time professor. Jonah had a horrible adjunct in his writing class last semester who was then fired in the middle of the semester and then replaced by an even worse adjunct. They let him (and his classmates) retake the class this semester with a full time professor. It went much, much better. Huge.

10 areas with the fastest-rising home prices, which includes this area on Lake George. WANT. CAN’T HAVE IT. We’ll probably rent something by a lake by the Delaware Water Gap this year.

Michael Cohen in that plaid jacket with the cigar. Image of the week.

Kids aren’t improving their reading comprehension levels, because they need to know shit in order to understand what they are reading. They can’t understand a reading passage about the civil war, if they know zippo about American history. There’s been some good research on this. I should have written this article. Pissed at myself.

Colleges recruit at richer, whiter high schools. College Fairs are a big business around here.

The End Times of Brick and Mortar

Last month, Ian remembered that he had $50 worth of gift cards for Toys R Us in the bottom drawer of his desk and that those cards had to be used quickly, because the company was going bankrupt. We hastily purchased some electronic items, but we were notified three weeks later that the order was cancelled without refunding the gift cards. The company ate our $50.

So, I’m currently trying to work through the phone tree at ToysRUs to get that money back. I know it’s a lost cause, but losing $50 is bugging the crap out of me. Even if all the good stuff is gone in the stores, I want to buy diapers or something and donate it to the local food pantry. The odds of getting this money back is very slim, but I have to give it a shot.

Toys R Us is yet another business that cannot compete with the convenience of online shopping. Our local mall is a ghost town and is mostly used by retirees who pace back and forth to get their steps on the Fitbits. Sears will soon be replaced by yet another fancy supermarket with lots of prepared foods.

Is the demise of ToysRUs and its fellows a bad thing? No more teenagers hanging out at the foodcourt at the mall. No more flat-iron salesmen at the kiosks chasing me down the hallway with their products. No more lines of kids waiting to get their pictures taken with the Easter bunny. Does it matter? Probably not.

I’m quite happily buying picture frames, rugs, and eyeglasses online. My rug showed up in two days and was perfect. My glasses were inexpensive and were easy to exchange when the first pair were too large. Framing my picture online saved me several separate trips to get the picture printed and then matched to the right frame. Over this winter, I also purchased my holiday cards and a stylist-approved outfit — all online.

The stores that are going to survive the continuing extinction of brick and mortar are going to be like creatures that survived the dinosaur extinction — smart and agile and small.

People still want to go out to be inspired. They want an experience along with their shopping. So, stores that show you what your rooms can look like with their products, an IKEA for example, will be fine. Stores that provide services for the busy family, like the prepared foods at the fancy supermarkets, will keep expanding. Stores that make you feel hipper with carefully curated items and hip workers will be okay.

But you should hurry up and spend your gift cards to stores with piles of dusty board games or piles of discount jewelry. Their days are numbered.

A New Day

Yesterday, I planned on rebooting my work schedule for the spring. One project needs a new home, and I need to pull together new projects for the various venues places that I publish. But I was defeated by extreme weather in the Age of Global Warming.

The skies opened up, and the streets flooded. After an hour of waiting for Ian’s bus, I gave up and drove him, which is an hour round trip. Then his school’s parking lot flooded, so his school was let out after lunch period. Between shuttling Ian back and forth and prepping for his 16th birthday party — a small family thing at a local Chinese restaurant — not much happened work-wise.

In the old days, work-day washouts were more frequent. There was always some emergency that surrounded the boys, which made a flexible job a necessity. Now, these events are rare, but are still frustrating. I didn’t sleep much last night, because I was writing in my head. I have to purge those words during the day, so I can sleep at night. Sigh, it’s tough being neurotic.

So, it’s Tuesday, but it feels like a Monday. I’m making lists and taking notes. And blogging. More to come.

In the Garden. FINALLY!

Giving myself a week off from brain-hurt-y articles, I’m just enjoying life today. Went to the gym and then it was finally warm enough to clean out the garden. It’s amazing how happy I am when I get a good night sleep and spend the morning of playing in dirt.

We’re nearly done with our kitchen and family room renovation. I’ll post pictures next week, after we unpack the boxes of books. The process took way longer and was way dirtier than we expected, but this is all first world problems. We’re super lucky and we know it.

Here’s what I read this morning:

Finland does everything better, even dealing with homelessness.

I love this essay by Jonathan Franzen about New York City in the 1980s.

Global warming. We’re screwed.

Should journalists allow scientists to review their quotes or text before publication? And the historians are pissed at the media right now, too.  I think I’m going to write about this at some point.