And Now a Word From The Sponsor

Welcome to my site and thank you for reading. After many times thinking, if only I had a blog, well-- here we are. This blog will feature writings on a variety of topics from roadside food, to leadership in the fire service; politics; culture- gay, straight, and indifferent, my experiences in Ohio, New York and beyond; and much much more. It's my hope that you will find it interesting and that it stirs at least some thought and discussion. I am certain you wont always agree, but that is what its all about right? Oh and one more thing:

The views expressed on this site are entirely my own. They do not reflect in anyway the views or positions of my employer (s) and should not taken as official policy of ANY organization with which I am associated. Reading or sharing any post from this site shall be taken as an indication that you have read this disclaimer and understand it.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Well here I sit

These are really annoying times.  Sitting here in a great place, lots of things on my mind to write, but nothing is coming out.  Well, its coming out, but only in pieces, kind of like popcorn, but each kernel a different color that doesn't match the last.  Somewhere in the recesses of my brain lie the following:  A column on planning for and responding to large scale disasters; a Column on Public Safety Management trends; a column on effective planning for organizational transformation of public safety dispatching centers; and probably an article or two for some magazine (maybe the advocate?) on what its like being an out gay guy in the FDNY. 

Down deeper, in the cavern where the bats live and little light goes, lie the books.  Scattered on the floor of the cave..some with covers: "I shaved my head for this"- a story of dating in the 21st century sorta gay metropolis; "Walking with Dinosaurs- lessons in Public Safety Management"; and maybe a collection of poetry or two, or perhaps a book on photography. 

But like an infant in a crib, all I can do is eye as the mobile of my ideas twirls about, just out of reach except for brief moments where.. straining ever so hard... I can just... touch... the edge... and then... its......gone. And again here I am left with my ideas.  Just like the infant, left to wonder, now what. 

I guess I will stare at the keyboard be reminded yet again of my greatest challenge-- of all the great ones.  Patience.  Whether for a column or finanical security or love.  Things come on their own time-- when they are ready to appear, not when, stammering and holding my breath, the arrive out of a my sheer determination to make them happen.  No, things dont work that way do they.  Instead we must simply do the right thing-- live in our moments and not sacrifice our present to our memory or our expectation.  Whatever is in this moment is good and perfect and just as it needs to be.  Even for the frustrated writer who feels he should be doing so much more. 

I never really noticed till now, the music on the mobile is kinda cool.. maybe I will just lay here and listen.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Ten Best: Roadside Food; Diners; Mom & Pops!

As many of you are likely to know, one of my all-time favorite experiences is to happen upon a road-side diner or mom-and-pop eatery, hang out at the counter, order the special and just see what magic happens.  Sometimes I am rewarded with a menu that includes Clam-Rolls, or a milkshake arrives with his formative tin alongside, or the clam chowder is just the way I like it.  Even better is when I am able to have a conversation—with a waitress or owner or fellow customer that teaches me (yet again) the value of unplanned human interactions. 

Having been asked a few times for my favorite places for these experiences, here is your current list of my top-ten Diners and M&Ps.  If you are ever near any of them, please stop by.  And if you have any suggestions for new ones, we would love to hear, so please post!

1. Anapoli- 6920 3rd Ave, Bklyn, NY 11209  [BayRidge]

My classic local “diner”—Anapoli is actually an even older style “ice-cream parlor” that is a highlight of living in Bayridge.  Great Food, Better Personalities and very inexpensive. 

2. Highspire Diner-255 2nd Street, Highspire, PA, 17034 [south of Harrisburg, PA]

The penultimate Diner experience.  Across the street from a firehouse, down the road from an airport, I could spend a large part of my life in this establishment
 And never have a single bad day.  Lunch specials are always good and it’s a very “local” place with exactly the kind of waitresses you would expect.

3. Texas Tavern--  114 Church Avenue SW, Roanoke, VA 24011

Whether the Chili or the Cheesy Western or the fact that this place is smaller than my living room, it has been in its original form for decades and will likely never change. My only disappointment was that I was sober for the experience, according to the locals the waffle house effect (how much better certain foods taste when you are more than a little sauced) certainly applies here.

4.  Skooters—50 Ella Grasso Tpke, Windsor Locks, CT 06096 [Near Bradley Intl]

The least senior of the list but a great testament to a new style of diner.  There is a counter, there are clams, the service is always nice and last time I got to meet the owner.  Its location, near both and airport and an aviation museum are certainly added bonuses—as is the very tasteful use of neon and formica.

5.  Highland Park Diner—960 Clinton Ave South, Rochester, NY, 14620

Classic and beautiful diner on the south side of a great American city that has much to offer the person on a road-trip.  This diner has a unique, northern Upstate, Buffalo inspired menu and beautiful neon signage—but trust me, don’t just stay outside staring at the sign—go inside—its worth it!

6.  Coach House Restaurant— 4 Hackensack Ave, Hackensack, NJ 07601

I.m not normally a fan of the industrial New Jersey “modern” diner, but this place just has to be on any list.  Food quality and service are extremely good and it has a fireplace—a rare treat in these kind of places.

7.  The Thurman CafĂ©—183 Thurman Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43206

More a M&P bar than a diner, but still one of America’s great food and beer institutions.  I have to confess that I liked it more before the expansion/renovations, but I understand the need for progress.  Either way, a place that still knows what I like to eat and drink 12 years after I moved away is some kind of special!

8.  Tommy’s Diner— 914 West Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio 43222

Normally I have a hard and fast rule about renovations (see above) however Tommy’s was renovated due to a fire that started in the grease ducts—so that’s actually extra credit points!  Tommy never did think I would like NYC, and on some days he has been more than a little right, but one of the joys of heading back to Columbus is visiting this excellent Diner.

9.  Tom’s Ice Cream Bowl— 532 McIntire Avenue, Zanesville, Ohio 43701

The newest addition to the list, and a credit to a friend (A. Deaver) who introduced it to me, this is the only old fashioned (original) ice cream shop/candy store/lunch counter than I have ever been into in Ohio.  For that alone it deserves a spot on the list.  That the food and service are classic diner style—metal tin with the milkshake!!!--- just makes it ever better.

10.  Alexis Diner—5023 Route 9W, Newburgh, NY 12550  

The only modern-industrial pre-fab diner on the list, the Alexis is one of the absolute best in terms of service and food quality.  A great stop while on Hudson Valley road-trips, it is always busy, has excellent specials, and a very professional feel to it.  May not have 70 year old grease on the ceiling, but that’s not always a bad thing!

In Memoriam:

A few of the amazing places that have been lost to time, fire, a community’s lack of appreciation, indifferent owners or the other calamities that can befall a beloved eatery.

Noels, Waverly Ohio—US Rte 23 & SR 104  

Road-trips to grandma’s house were always topped off with this truck-stop/diner in southern Ohio. One of my earliest diner memories.

Stans, Columbus, Ohio— Westerville Rd & Morse Rd.

A 2008 fire dimmed forever the bright lights offering baskets of deep-fried goodness—Haddock, Shrimp, and Fried Chicken.  I imagine there were other things on the menu, but it didn’t really matter.

The K & M, Portsmouth Ohio, 612 Chillicothe Street           Also a part of childhood visits to Southern Ohio, This was an old school small town  restaurant with all the staples.  As the downtown of Portsmouth thinned and died out; it was only a matter of time that K&M would fade away as well. 

Shades Good Food, US40, Near Reynoldsburg, Ohio

A step above its cousin on South High Street, it featured the casual front for lunches, the formal dining room in the back—and the same food for both sides.  I can’t help but wonder if I was ever fooled!

The Shake Shoppe, US Rte 23 in Rosemount, Ohio

Many of my earliest memories revolve around this small place with iron work chairs and tables, amazing milkshakes, and French fries that were poufy and melted like butter on your tongue   Someday I will find those French fries again—and when I do—I will know my quest was victorious.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Pension Reform

(Or why I am not quite a full steam ahead union guy)

New York State's Governor Andrew Cuomo has found great success in Albany so far in his first term.  From shepherding Gay Marriage through the Statehouse to enacting tough reforms, he has met the challenge of being a true progressive and lead the state where others have miserably failed. 
Both a theme of his governorship and of President Obama term have been the need for us all to sacrifice and share in the burden of bringing improved fiscal solvency to government at all levels. A great republican theme has been the nature of unions and the exorbitant benefits paid union members.  Sadly, we are sometimes out own worst enemies and few issues reflect this as strongly as the cost of pensions and health care for New York City Employees.  I will admit here that I pay a grand total of Zero Dollars for both.

My health care and my pension require no fiscal contribution from my paycheck.  I do pay a $15 co-pay to see a doctor and I don't have the costly drug rider, but my basic insurance is free.  My pension, as I am not in the twenty-five and out plan, required a three percent contribution until the completion of my 10th year.  Upon reaching that milestone, my contributions ceased.  Had I been in 25 and out, a 6% contribution would continue, but that remains a very low number, especially given the benefits that are a part of the pension payout provisions. 

Given the increasing strain of pension payments on local governments, the nature of shrinking tax revenues and the nationwide trends of private sector employees being forced to pay incredibly high amounts for pensions (if they are fortunate enough to even have them) and health care-- I do not feel it a horrible thing for NYC and NYS employees to be asked to contribute a little more. 

For us to give 5% towards our pensions for the duration of our employment and 5% towards health care costs (both before tax deductions) would contribute to a better fiscal outlook for local and state government and make for stronger local budgets-- something that benefits everyone.  Similar reforms are now a part of the Governor's Agenda and some of my fellow union-members are reacting with a completely expected shriek.  However, in this case, those shrieks are unwarranted and unfair-- given the state of our economy and the realities of today's workforce.  Maybe it is time for us to think about giving a little back, especially if a frequent progressive cry is that other's should be doing the same.  

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Go Blue!

It has finally happened.  I am now officially a New Yorker.  It took nearly 12 years, but at long last it has occurred.  How do I know?  Sit down.. take a breath.... I was far more excited about the Giants winning the Super Bowl than anything the Ohio State Buckeyes have done over the last few years. 

Maybe it was the way every player talked about the team spirit of the organization-- the love they have for each other, or the mature and common sense approach of Tom Coughlin.  Perhaps it was the way they were counted out, only to be reborn.  Or maybe it was Brandon Jacobs, shortly after the win, stating that this win means the dynasty of the New England Patriots has been... "Decapitated"...

Welcome to New York City.  Land of hopes, dreams, and decapitation.  I have to say I love it.