Friday, October 30, 2009

Why I Have No Faith In The GOP

Hmm... I suppose with a title such as "Why I Have No Faith In The GOP" some of you may suspect that this post will be perhaps 1,000 times longer than even my recent Key West travelogue!


Nope! I'll keep it brief - focused on a particular exchange I had with a GOP "insider" yesterday.

Read this op-ed by Bill Pascoe.

The following was my response to Mr. Pascoe:

Dear Bill,

Just read your piece in CQ.

From your typing fingers to God's roving eyes!

(Seriously... has Gingrich lost his mind...??? Is it his wife...??? What's the inside dope?)

Anyway... QUESTION:

Why won't the GOP use the January 2007-Present economic record to indict the Democrats?

I just don't get it. I've brought this up far and wide, emailing the staffers at the RSC, reaching out to anyone and everyone within GOP conservative circles and no response.


Why are not charts ubiquitous showing the rise in deficits and debt month by month throughout the years the Democrats have controlled the House and Senate and since January of this year the White House...???

I don't get it!

In other words, we all know the Republicans - the RINOs - sucked. But the numbers are clear and unambiguous about the Dems sucking WORSE!

My God... a chart such as I describe should be the "front" page of the RNC website and indeed run on all Republican/conservative websites.

Along the same lines we should have charts following price rises of everyday items like Hellmann's mayo that AVERAGE AMERICANS PURCHASE REGULARLY and charts outlining the shrinking size of said products (ice cream used to be sold in half gallon containers, now it's 1.75... tuna used to be 7 oz. cans, then 6 oz., now 5 oz. Whether it's the Democrats "fault" or not shouldn't we be portraying it as their fault...?!?! Shouldn't we be linking Democratic control of Congress and the White House to falling living standards...???

Your getting the concept, right?

Anyway... if you believe what I'm bringing up has merit, for God's sake push the movers and shakers to put my suggests into effect. November '10 is right around the corner.

Well...??? What do you think, folks? Reasonable? On target?

This guy Pascoe is a Republican political operative, a former spokesman for the RNC; you'd think that the logic of the partisan message would get through to him. But no...

Here's Pascoe's response:

Dear Mr. Barker,

Thanks so much for reading, and for taking the time to write.

Re: your question, you answer it yourself -- in order to draw up charts and graphs showing rising deficits and rising inflation in the prices of every day good since January 2007, we'd have to include two years of GOP rule (the last two years of the Bush White House) with less than one year of Democratic rule (the Obama Administration to date).

The country isn't sophisticated enough, in my humble opinion, to understand that "ruling" the country is something done more by the Congress with its taxing and spending decisions than is done by the White House.

So, since your project would require the GOP to call itself out for its behavior less than three years ago, it's going to languish.

That's not to say, however, that your idea has no merit -- just that it's easy to see why the GOP hasn't taken you up on it yet.

This is good material for the conservative movement, and will be forwarded appropriately.

Well, well... there you have it! Allow me to highlight the paragraph that just floored me:

The country isn't sophisticated enough, in my humble opinion, to understand that "ruling" the country is something done more by the Congress with its taxing and spending decisions than is done by the White House.

Can you believe that crap...?!?!

Bad enough that a guy who runs a supposedly "educational organization dedicated to defending and promoting economic economic and political liberty" is apparently uninterested in EDUCATING the American public, but worse, Pascoe apparently believes that it's a viable political strategy for the GOP to turn a blind eye to its own past missteps even if by doing so this serves to provide cover for the Democrats past and present fiscal irresponsibility!

Folks... God help us all... this guy has worked for the Heritage Foundation and the American Conservative Union! You'd think... you'd hope... he'd know better!


In any case, here are the highlights of my response to Mr. Pascoe:

Well, with all due respect, if that's the general consensus of the movers and shakers of the GOP than the GOP is doomed and deserves to be doomed.

Again... with all due respect... such thinking is itself beyond unsophisticated - it's the root cause of the GOP's problem. My God, man... following your "sophisticated" logic the "unsophisticated" public - particularly true conservatives and reasonable independents - would never have realized and reacted to what Bush and the RINO Congress pulled from January 2001 thru November 2006. Following your logic McCain is President because the "unsophisticated" conservatives and independents who the GOP (via simple math, Party registration vs. Party registration) depends upon to win national elections. No, Bill, with respect the American People NOTICED Bush was Bush and RINOs were RINOs and they NOTICED that McCain was McCain.

And that's that, folks; as of yet... no further response from Pascoe.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

True Health Insurance/Health Care Reform

It ain't rocket science, folks.

You want some "talking points" regarding what true health insurance/health care "reform" would look like? Fine. Here ya go:

1) Restore the concept of "insurance" to... er... insurance. By this I mean we need to link insurance costs to actuarial reality. As for subsidies, "safety nets," these need to be balanced against fiscal and economic reality. At some point the books need to balance, the math needs to "proof."

2) In line with Point 1, America needs to jettison the concept of "bumper-to-bumper" health insurance providing coverage for routine, usual, and otherwise to be expected medical expenses. The only medical insurance Americans should have - and must have - is catastrophic insurance.

3) Catastrophic insurance from birth till death must be a mandate. Period. The premium costs for minors will be the responsibility of the parents.

4) Insurance must be decoupled from employment and refocused as an individual responsibility. "Employer provided" insurance must be stricken from the American lexicon.

5) Actuarial realities will be and must be "smoothed out" to a certain extent; a social safety net must and will continue to exist. This said... we must as a society recognize that for most there can be no "free lunch" and that medical care must be paid for just as we pay for food, shelter, housing, transportation, entertainment, clothing, and all other human wants and needs.

So... to tie these "talking points" into a (hopefully) more coherent whole...

We're all going to die. Most of us will be hospitalized at some point during our lives. There's a good chance that end of life care - the last weeks, months, or even years of one's life depending upon individual circumstances - will result in extensive health expenditures.

As a general rule of thumb, with age comes illness - at least comparatively. At the same time, reality is that the young are particularly prone to broken bones, woman in their 20's and 30's are likely to have babies, men tend to come down with a variety of "middle age" health complaints in their 40's.

All of this is normal! It's to be expected! It's the cost of life! Americans must accept all this and accept that "insurance" is not for protection against common occurrences, but rather a protection - one funded via premiums, premiums that make economic sense according to the best actuarial science available - against economic catastrophe in the face of extraordinary calls upon normal individual and family economic resources.

There's a reason we don't buy "gas insurance" to keep our cars tanks full.

There's a reason we don't buy "food insurance" to keep the fridge stocked.

There's a reason why when your boiler craps out or your roof needs replacing that you're expected to either tap your savings or borrow in order to deal with the situation.

Americans need to grow up. Grown men and women need to wake up to reality!

One thing President Obama and the Democrats say which is absolutely correct is that the present system is unsustainable. The problem with their arguments is... they're right... but they don't understand why they're right. They don't understand that their proposed "solution" of more socialism and less personal responsibility is the wrong solution, one which builds on the mistaken policies of the past rather than reverses them as is necessary if we're to get out of the mess government policies have steered us into.

It started back during WW-2. With wage and price controls shackling employers with regard to using pay incentives to keep and attract the best workers, employers instead used "benefits" as the carrot with not only the full approval of the federal government, but the subsidization of the federal government. You see, these "health insurance/health care" benefits, unlike case wages, were non-taxable to the employee and a write-off to the employer.

After the War... for political reasons the government stuck to this subsidy policy and today, more than half a century later, we're still sticking to this system that almost everyone of all political and ideological stripes sees as unsustainable in the long term.

My God, think how unfair it is to tie tax free health insurance benefits not only to employment, but worse yet, only certain employment - employment which provides such benefits in the first place. Think about it... such a system creates circumstances where you may have a single mom working three separate part time jobs - none offering paid benefits - to support herself and her children. Let's say this woman's total yearly salary compensation for her 70-hour weeks is $60,000/yr. With no tax free company provided health insurance she pays out of pocket for health insurance - let's say $8,000/yr. Sure, she gets a partial benefit of being able to pay for her out of pocket health insurance premiums with "pre-tax" dollars, but that's a far cry from situation faced by a corporate executive. Consider... you're an executive at a Fortune 50 Company. Let's say you make ten times the single mom's salary - so you're pulling in $600,000/yr. On top of this the company provides you with top of the line family health insurance - the finest money can buy - at say... oh... $25,000/yr. This means that in truth your total compensation is $625,000/yr., but because the health insurance "benefit" is tax free... that additional $25,000 health insurance compensation is tax free to you - to you... the guy making over half a million dollars a year. That's insane! That's irrational on the face of it!

Bottom line... we need less government involvement in health care and particularly health insurance. President Obama and the Democrats will tell you that we need more government regulation of health insurance and health care. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have too much regulation as it is! Think about it... 50 states... each with it's own insurance department... each with it's own insurance commissioner... each with it's own insurance regulations and onerous mandated micromanagement of coverage requirements. Here in New York State I can't even purchase a true catastrophic plan and link it effectively to an MSA/HSA. New York State government denies me this option - this choice! (And folks... New York is not alone...)

Sure. State regulation to ensure transparent, understandable contracts between the insurer and the insured, but that's it. That's where state regulation should begin and end. As for federal regulation...

The federal government should do two things:

1) Mandate catastrophic coverage for all Americans with adults being allowed to opt out only if they are willing to sign away any and all "rights" to government paid for heath care as long as they remain uninsured. (And for those adults who opt out and then choose to opt back in... sure... but this gap would be addressed in higher premiums when they do opt back in - and they could only opt back in after a physical that they paid for showed that they had no pre-existing conditions; pre-existing conditions would not be covered unless they were pre-existing conditions that originally existed prior to the opt-out.)

2) The government subsidized employer provided bumper-to-bumper employer provided insurance must give way to individual and family Medical Savings Accounts/Health Savings Accounts that are coupled with catastrophic care policies which kick in once a certain threshold of yearly or periodic medical spending has been covered out of pocket by the individual and/or family.

Now as much as I may believe in the philosophical case against using the tax code for social engineering purposes, this being the real world and not just "Bill's World" I'm willing to concede that in order to switch from the present dysfunctional system to a MSA/HSA system coupled with catastrophic coverage it might be incumbent to provide for favorable tax treatment of such health care payment and catastrophic health care insurance vehicles. Fine. My basic thrust... we need to create a self-sustaining system to finance health care as opposed to the insurance focused debate presently at the forefront of political discourse.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Breaking Through The Funk



I'm gonna forget reality - ignore the news of the last few days - and switch gears to regale you with highlights of The Great Key West Excursion 2009!

Good flight out. Arrived Miami on time - perhaps even a bit early - on Wednesday morning. Since we had carry-on only we were able to immediately head for the appointed pick-up point and literally as we made it outside I got the call from Ted that they were driving up the ramp to pick us up.

Now... I had reserved an Impala for us. Guess what Ted and Mary actually pulled up in? Give up?


Yep... for those who don't know, "Hank" is my Charger - my 2008 Inferno Red 5.7 liter HEMI Dodge Charger.

Anyway, by "fake Hank" I'm referring to the Silver 2.3 liter rental Charger that Ted and Mary picked us up in. Hey... slow as shit... but roomy as a "real" Charger inside!

Luggage in the trunk... all four of us in the car... Ted throws it in drive... ODM pops open a beer for me... and off we go! Next stop - the Key Largo Discount Liquor store!

Well... within 45 minutes or so we're parked at the liquor store. Inside we go! 20 minutes later we're packing our "supplies" in the trunk - $340 worth or so!

(Oh, yeah... we don't kid around! Vodka, Kahlua, Baileys, Silver Tequila, Dark Rum, Light Rum, Malibu Rum, Cherry Brandy, Grand Marnier, Creme de Bananas, Creme de Cocao... and assorted mixers, bitters, etc.) (Oh, yeah... and more beer!)

Next stop: Parrotdise. The bar/restaurant - not the nickname of Key West itself. No... Parrotdise is our yearly lunch stop. Fried pickles... lobster Reuben... prime rib sandwich... sushi... and of course... Key West Sunset Ale on tap! If you're ever in Key West or just passing through... Parrotdise is located off Mile Marker 28.5 - check 'em out!

So... continuing...

Into Key West we go, stopping at Publix for fresh lemons and limes as well as fruit juices for the tropical drinks to come. Next stop... our home for the next five nights: The Curry House!

Key West Day 1 -

Well, after checking in we hit the pool.
Nice pool! Not too big, not too small; the "deep end" is
only 5.5 feet and there's an inner ledge for folks who want to sit "in" the pool. Nicely heated too! Low to mid 80's during our entire stay. Outside temps were in the high 80's/low 90's most days and comfortable at night. Besides AC, there were ceiling fans in each bedroom and our bathroom as well as our outside wrap around deck. Ceiling fans are a nice touch; functional too! Here's Ted and Mary's room; here's ours.

Since we had enjoyed a late - and filling - lunch at Parrotdise, we chose to enjoy a late - and relatively lite - supper at Michael's. We'd enjoyed the a full meal at Michael's one night during our previous trip to Key West back in 2008, so this time around we figured we'd try their fondue at their garden bar. Prior to the fondue arriving I had a Hemingway, ODM and Ted had Martinis, MDM had water, and then when the fondue came we enjoyed a nice bottle of red.

After dinner... a nice relaxing couple block stroll back to the Curry House... a late night dip in the pool... and time to hit the sack!

Key West Day 2 -

Up fairly early - around 7:45 a.m.

"Morning ritual."

Out to our second floor wrap-around front porch to read a bit from Amity Shlaes' "The Forgotten Man." (Great book by the way; I highly recommend it!) By the time I head down to breakfast at 8:30 a.m. the gang is already seated. (Wow... you read that right - ODM was seated for breakfast BEFORE yours truly!)

Baileys with our coffee; vodka with our juice!


Breakfast was bacon, eggs (with cheese), english muffins, melon slices, and a chocolate muffin. (Breakfast was different each day; one day eggs... next day french toast with sausage... next day pancakes... you get the idea.)

After breakfast a swim... then upstairs to read and wait for Capt'n Ran, our charter guy, to pick us up.

Oh... I haven't mentioned the good Capt'n yet? Hang on... here we go!

Capt'n Ran is the owner/operator of No Wake Charters. I found him while browsing charter providers. Last year we chartered a 23' Chris Craft with a 150 hp Yamaha engine. It was great! We snorkeled the shallows, "hung" with a baracuda, I experienced the "thrill" of a frigg'n 10-12 ft. SHARK swimming past me - underneath me actually - and I even got to spear a hogfish with my very first speargun shot!

This year, though... we figured we'd go in a different direction and charter a sailboat and go out to the reef for some snorkeling. Capt'n Ran was the man; his 31' Bombay Clipper was the boat!

Here's the thing about Capt'n Ran and No Wake: His is largely a niche business. His niche...? He does "clothing optional" sails! Yep... Capt'n Ran caters to the nudist community!

Hey... different strokes for different folks, right! In case anyone is wondering, no... we didn't partake in... er... the lifestyle. We kept our swimsuits on! But, hey... more power to Capt'n Ran's customers who don't! Freedom, baby... God Bless America!

The sail started off great. Capt'n Ran picked us up at the Curry House at 9:45 a.m., a quick stop at Publix to pick up some beer, and by 10:30 a.m. we were headed out to sea.

Oh, man... how beautiful. A gorgeous day... brisk wind... headed out to the Western Sambos Marine Sanctuary.

It takes a while to sail out beyond the reef - which we did. Very peaceful. Very relaxing. For awhile a couple dolphins shadowed us but in time they apparently grew bored with us and headed for points unknown.

It's really cool how the water changes color as you head out to see. Light green to darker green to blue to purple...

Our only "slight" problem: None of us had the foresight to pop a few Dramamine or Bonine.

A mistake!

ODM was the first to succumb. MDM was next. And me... I was fine till we got out of sight of land and even as we sailed back towards the reef, but when set anchor...


I jumped into the water hoping it would help, but after snorkeling a bit I knew the inevitable was about to occur. Just watching the boat bob up and down on the 3-5 ft. swells was it for me. Grabbing the ladder preparing to reboard... well... then I started bobbing up and down. At that point...

Well... use your imagination. One thing I can tell you - those tropical fish just LOVE chum!


Well... at that point three out of the four of us were not in the best of shape and Ted being the "go with the flow" kinda guy he is... we decided to cut the day a bit short and head back to port.

Hey... we still got a half day on the water! All of us felt that it was money well spent. Capt'n Ran had given us a good deal and let's put it this way... we did far better chartering a 31' Bombay Clipper with Capt'n than most brides and grooms get on their wedding limo or prom kids get on their limo. Hey... next year we'll just remember to pop the Dramamine and Bonine!


The second we were docked and off the boat... INSTANT RELIEF! We were fine! Heck... we dragged Capt'n Ran to the marina bar, The Hogfish Bar and Grill, a true "locals" hangout, for a couple of beers and some tasty appetizers, including this smoked fish dip that was out of this world!

Back to the Curry House, out to the pool, and... THE ATTACK OF THE MADWOMAN AND HER HUSBAND THE WIMP!

Folks... have I mentioned that this year the Curry House is under "New Management" from last year? Same owners, but now they're acting as the actual innkeepers. As you're about to hear... not a good plan. As famed San Francisco Police Inspector Harald Francis Callahan once said... a man's gotta know his limitations. Well... as you'll now read, Sue and Warren Monson - proprietors of the Curry House - should consider their own lack of business sense, tact, civility, and common sense "limitations" with regard to their ability to serve as the "face" of the Curry House.

I remember meeting Sue and Warren briefly last year. Ted, ODM, MDM, and I were checking out and they were just arriving. (As we later found out, they were "arriving" in order to take hands-on operational control of the inn from their son - the 30-something year old son who they had come to fire.) I recall them being a bit stuffy and not overly friendly, but as I said, it was only a brief introduction and I didn't really reflect upon my first impression. I should have.

Prior to booking our return this year I double-checked to make sure that "James" was still working at the Curry House. He was our "go to guy" last year and he had done everything possible to make our stay a pleasant one. After verifying that James was indeed still with the Curry we booked this year's stay and though the B&B's website did state "Under New Management" it didn't occur to me to consider that this might make a difference in the "vibe" of the place. I simply figured that as long as James was there, all must be as before. As we were to find out... not quite.

It started when we first came down for breakfast. As I came down the stairs from our room and headed towards the back patio I passed Warren reading a newspaper. He glanced up but didn't say anything. I had to throw out a hearty "good morning" first and while he responded... it was with less than the sort of enthusiasm I look for in people I'm paying for service from.

The wife - Sue - was a bit better... but not by much.

What threw me a bit was that when I spied James and approached him to give him a hug of greeting (believe me... a hug was appropriate - just take my word for it) he replied with much less exuberance than I had expected. It wasn't as if he was stand-offish to me personally; no, rather it was as if he was worried that the owners wouldn't approve. (We later found out that this was indeed the case, that there was quite a bit of tension between the owners and the staff - James and Lois.)

Anyway... fast forward to our return from sailing. We're in pool. We're talking. We're laughing. We're having a good time. It's happy hour - literally! It's 5:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. We seem to be the only guests "home."

All of a sudden Sue and Warren come barreling out the back doors. I wave and throw out a cheery "how's it going?!" Sue's terse response... "Not well!"

Oh, boy... here we go...

It seems that while we were out sailing some single woman had checked in and decided to take a nap. Although I never saw hide nor hair of her, ODM later reported that when she had called up the stairs looking for MDM prior to hitting the pool a door had slammed shut up on our floor. ODM didn't think anything of it at the time.

Anyway... back to Sue and Warren... it seems that this woman had heard us cavorting in the pool and instead of either joining us, ignoring us, or pleasantly asking us if we could quiet it down a bit, she took it upon herself to call Sue and Warren at their home (also in Key West) to complain about our noise and to threaten to check out.

Warren and Sue came over. Sue did most of the talking. Rather... Sue did most of the scolding - as if we were high school or college kids on spring break. She lectured us on how hard she works and how she and Warren "didn't need this." She pretty much threatened us, telling us that if there were any more complaints "someone would have to leave - either you four or her."

Why did we "take" it? Why didn't we just leave right then and there? Well... Sue had one point: ODM had a beer with her in the pool; a beer in a glass bottle. That's a no-no and a reasonable one at that. When Sue "caught" us with glass in the pool and gave us the lecture about "do you know how long it takes to drain and refill this pool if broken glass is involved" that basically put us on the defensive. Sue took ODM's beer, went over to the sidebar to get a plastic glass, poured the beer in it and gave it back to ODM.

I did make note that all our fellow guest had to do was simply ASK us to quiet down a bit using the excuse that she was jet-lagged or whatever.

In the end we were embarrassed about the glass bottle; for their part, Sue and Warren calmed down and seemed to recognize that they had come on too strong. (Warren kept on saying "we're not judging" - meaning taking sides - but clearly Sue was.) They left. We went back to trying to enjoy ourselves... but the mood was ruined.

What absolute idiots! Here we were, returning guests, two rooms, five nights... and Sue chose to alienate the four of US and Warren stood back and let her...?!?! My God... how frigg'n dumb! Unfrigg'nbelieveable!

If only they had come over and dealt with us in a professional - and smart - manner. If only they had strolled out, said "hey, guys - how'ya do'n?!" and started the conversation by asking about how our stay was going and what we had done that day.

Hey... Sue could have then said, "Oh... Mary, dear... please do us a favor and use the plastic glasses for beverages in the pool; don't bring glass in or near the pool where there could be an accident and someone could get hurt. (Right...?! Diplomatic!)

Warren could have piped up with, "oh... guys... by the way, we have a new guest; she's alone and just got in this afternoon. She's really jet-lagged and is taking a nap. If you guys could bear that in mind and tune down the volume a bit that would really be great. Hey... have fun! Just a bit quieter fun!"

Now THAT would have worked! That's how I would have handled it. But no... Sue Monson had to go and make it adversarial with her own paying guests. Stupid. Idiotic. Bad business.

Anyway... as I'll explain later... the Monson's unprofessional and unfriendly behavior cost them not just our return business, but also that of two other couples who we made friends with while we were at the Curry House.

Shifting gears...

Dinner that night was at Sarabeth's. Very, very good. Not one of our top, top favorites... but very, very good. We ate outside; it was a lovely evening. Their tomato soup is to frigg'n DIE for! The whole local fresh yellowfish snapper was huge and tasty - deboned, sliced lengthwise down the center between head and tail creating a "center" into which the fresh local greens were piled. Excellent presentation! Oh... and the homemade lemonade by the carafe is a nice touch. I mean... Key West is basically the tropics... no matter how fancy the place, how much wine can you really drink in that climate?

If memory serves, we had key lime pie for dessert. Excellent! I seem to remember some other dessert - a brownie/ice cream concoction perhaps - but we went to so many restaurants and had so many desserts that I'm just not sure which dessert(s) we had where. In any case... if you're ever in Key West... do try Sarabeth's.

After dinner a short walk "home" and a "nightcap" dip in the pool.

Key West Day 3 -

Friday was our Happy Hours (plural) Day!

Greeted the morning with Baileys in our coffee, extended post-breakfast pool time, and multiple bloody marys on the front deck. Nice!

Onward and outward, first stop... The Green Parrot. Beer.

Second stop... Kelly's. More beer. Coconut Shrimp. Conch Fritters.

Third stop... Pepe's. Asked the bartender to make us "tropical drinks" - anything with fresh juices and booze. I told the bartender to just "surprise us" and I've gotta say... his concoctions were kick ass! Along with the libations we ordered - as an appetizer - a Pepe's Steak Sandwich. OH... MY... GOD...!!! This thing was GREAT...!!! Real steak, cheese, onions, mushrooms, peppers... fresh soft bread... and a side of the BEST FRIGG'N MAC & CHEESE I've ever had in my entire frigg'n life...!!!


Let me tell you, folks: Never... I mean NEVER... visit Key West without stopping for drinks and a steak sandwich - or full breakfast, lunch, or dinner - at Pepe's. If I'm raving about the place you know it's something special!

Well... perhaps we're getting old, but I prefer to blame the heat and humidity... after multiple drinks at these various establishments we decided to head back to the Curry House and the pool.

Back at the pool we met our friends Tim and Leanne (from Sarasota, Fl.) and within moments happy hour was once again back in full swing. Leanne had done some bartending in her time and so we gave her a copy of our recipe list and let her go wild with our box of booze. Man... that girl mixes a fine drink! (Tim - if you're reading this - you're a lucky man, my friend!)

Well, we told Tim and Leanne all about "the episode" with Sue and Warren the day before. They were shocked and (forgive the cliche) appalled. After a few cocktails and after much discussion they actually decided that they were going to check out and move to a different B&B rather than stay at the Curry House for the remainder of the weekend. They wanted us to leave with them, but we figured it was more hassle than it was worth. Also, we were pre-paid while they were there on a gift certificate. They told us that they usually only took one getaway a year and that they would rather pay out of pocket for another place for two nights and consider the money spent "the price of doing business" than to stay at a place where there was tension between not only the owners and certain guests (us!), but also clearly between the owners and the staff, who had confided to us that for them... dealing with Sue Monson's up and down moods and conflicting instructions was a nightmare.

Just to give you an idea... that very afternoon Sue and Warren stopped by when the six of us guests were in the pool enjoying ourselves and without coming out and saying anything directly to us, the woman instructed James to tell us that she'd rather we didn't drink at all in pool, even using the very same plastic glasses she herself had told us to use just the day before!

(This was the straw that broke the camel's back as far as Tim and Leanne were concerned.)

Right after happy hour - hours, plural, actually - were over, Tim and Leanne left the Curry House (retaining their rooms though - they weren't about to let Sue and Warren profit from their decision) and moved a few blocks over to the Curry Mansion. (A very nice place by the way; we "visited" Tim and Leanne there the next day for their complimentary happy hour! I even did a bit of "Sinatra" singing with the piano player!)

Anyway... back to us and Friday night... our dinner destination that evening - Manga-Manga.

What a happy place! And great food too! ODM had the Spinach Fettuccini Alfredo with Jumbo Lump Blackfin Crab Meat... I had Polla al Quatro Formaggio... Ted and MDM had... er... other stuff. Oh... and of course we had appetizers (I vaguely remember escargots and Carpaccio di Bue) and wine and port and dessert.


All I can tell you besides that is that we ended up bringing leftovers back in doggy bags! Good thing each bedroom had a fridge!

Another short stroll home... another late night dip in the pool... and off to bed.

Key West Day 4 -

Irish Kevin's. Yes indeed... a fine low-brow establishment frequented (at 12:30 p.m.) by (already!) sloppy drunk tourists of all ages with tattooed serving wenches passing out mainly shots of sugary crap I didn't deign to drink even in high school and cheap domestic swill.

Hey... we like Irish bars! Even "faux" Irish bars! OBM, Ted and myself were drinking Guinness of course; MDM had a Smithwicks. All the while the guitar player sang traditional... er... Key West drunkster songs. Think raunchy lyrics and girls - and women - being enticed up on "stage" to "show us your tits" and "show us your ass."

Now that's all fine and dandy... if we were talking all good looking chicks! Thing is... a drunk'n fat chick - whether in her 20's, 30's, 40's, or 50's - is still a drunk'n fat chick. For God's sake... keep your frigg'n clothes on, honey!


No... hey... it was fun as "slumming," - I'd certainly say "check it out" - but all in all not really my thing... at least not at half past noon.

After 90 minutes or so we decided to do a bit more wandering. Next stop... the Tree bar.

The Tree bar is a pretty cool place. It's on Duval - in an alley, actually - and serves as a great perch to "people watch," or, if you'd rather, to watch sports on the tube while sipping generously poured, right-priced cocktails made with fresh fruit juiced right before your eyes. A couple drinks there and...

Off to the Curry Mansion!

Recall, folks, our friends Tim and Leanne had moved from the Curry House to the Curry Mansion. We had originally planned on meeting up with them during our afternoon pub crawl, but one thing led to another and we ended up agreeing to drop by the Curry Mansion to meet up with them. Upon our arrival... Tim and Leanne ushered us back to the Mansion's pool area, inviting us to join them for the Mansion's complimentary happy hour.

Well... you know us... happy hour + complimentary = an offer we'd never refuse!

The Curry Mansion has a piano player on duty during happy hour; not wanting to be a freeloader, I did a bit of singing for my "supper" - my drinks and snacks. One of the guests actually got quite animated when I did a bit of "The Way You Look Tonight." Seems that old classic is her and her husband's wedding song. Well... I may not be Sinatra... but the young lady and her group clapped rather than booed when I was done. (*SMILE*)

Well... after happy hour at the Curry Mansion it was "home" to continuing happy hour(s) at the Curry House! And just to make it an extra special happy hour... we had only been "home" and in the pool for perhaps 45 minutes when Tim and Leanne surprised us by appearing out of the blue to join us! (Hey... they'd pre-paid their room... they still had their key - they were entitled!)

We partied for an hour or so and then Tim and Leanne left in order to get ready for their night out. As for us... next stop... the Grand Cafe for dinner!

The Grand Cafe was the site of our "grandest" meal, our most expensive meal, but by no means our best meal. It was o.k. Let's put it this way... they wouldn't make it in NYC.

A pretty place? Sure. A bit "fru-fru?" Definitely. The staff "playing the part" but not quite pulling it off? Yep. (I had to ask for more butter twice!) The food itself...? Fine. Indeed, nothing to complain about... it's just at the "level" they're obviously aspiring to... again, they just didn't pull it off.

We started off with some Osetra caviar - $75! (ODM was in a caviar mood and - thank God - it was Ted's night to pay!) It was o.k. Actually... it was good. Would I have paid more than $15 for the dish? No. But, hey... my motto... if ODM is happy... we're all happy!

We also had some jumbo lump crab cakes and carpaccio of beef tenderloin. Nice presentation. Tasty enough. It's just... again... nothing knocked my socks off.

For entrees... ODM and I both had the 10 ounce lobster tail special. Ted had what basically amounted to a fru-fru surf and turf. MDM had wild mushroom fettuccini tossed with spinach, garlic, and roma tomato in a white wine sauce. Again... all good... but nothing I haven't had better elsewhere.

We had sat outside. It was a beautiful night. We finished up with a variety of desserts. Our second to last night had come to a close. (Well... except for our usual late night dip upon returning to Curry House.)

Key West Day 5 -

Ahh... our last full day and night in Key West...

Well, we awoke with the best of intentions; our plan: A sunset jetski outing with Key West Water Tours. Unfortunately... skipping ahead... we ended up bailing on the idea. Neither of the "Marys" was all that in to the excursion from the start, and truth be told, Ted and I we happy enough to just "laz" our way through this last full day and night of vacation.

Next year! Next year we'll do the jetski tour the first full day we're there!

(For those utilizing the links I provide, know that while we didn't actually experience "The Ultimate Island Tour," simply based upon my pre-trip research this is the outfit I recommend as giving the most bang for the buck as regards jetskiing the waters of Key West.)

So... anyway... Sunday morning. Breakfast. The pool. We actually hung at "home" till early afternoon.

Next... lunch!

Well, with a hearty breakfast each morning we hadn't been "lunching" as such (snacking, yes; lunching, no), but Sunday was going to be our last opportunity to experience the world famous B.O.'s Fish Wagon. Hey... no way in hell I was going to miss B.O.'s; we had missed it last year and I wasn't going to let that happen again!

OH... MY... GOD...!

Oh my... oh my, oh my, oh my...

If O.B.'s fish sandwich and Pepe's steak sandwich were the only two meals I could have for the rest of my life... (*SATISFIED SIGH*)... then by God I'd be a happy man indeed!

Ted and I both had the fish sandwich and by asking for "the special" (an insiders tip!) got free fries. ODM got the soft shell crab sandwich with fries. MDM got... well... nothing. (She's not a seafood fan - except for calamari.)

Listen: God bless B.O.'s! I'll just leave it at that!

Next stop... over to the Pier House to catch the second half of the Broncos-Patriots game (Go Brancos! They won, too!) at the legendary locals hang-out The Chart Room.

A few Red Stripes... a few bloody marys... a couple gin and tonics... free peanuts and popcorn... a friendly bartender and friendly fellow patrons... football... the air conditioning on high... what more could anyone ask...?!?!

Yep. The Pier House and the Chart Room were real "finds." Props to Key West Lou for turning me on to these gems hidden in plain sight!

Next stop... off to the other side of town to scope out The Keys - A Key West Piano Bar. We got there around 5:30 p.m. If it had been a Friday I imagine the joint would have been hopping, but as it was a Sunday... not so much. In any case, there were a few folks at the bar so we went in and asked the bartender when the action usually started. He told us that they'd be having no cover live music that night and we told him... we'd be back!

After strolling up and down Upper Duval (many boutiques... exclusive shops) for awhile we were again... thirsty. Only one cure for a thirst in that neighborhood: Le Te Da.

Oh, yeah... in case the name and local doesn't tip you off... Le Te Da is the Key West head office (*CHUCKLE*) (I made a punny!) for the gay, lesbian, and transgender party scene. And yeah... straights are welcome!

Fine pina coladas and banana daiquiris...! Unique ... er... "people watching" scene! Hey... not to stereotype, but these folks know how to have a good time, God bless 'em! Late Sunday afternoon and it was hopping like it was Friday happy hour or Saturday night.
Vis chaque jour comme si c'était le dernier...

Well... next stop... dinner! Off to Camilles!

Or not!

Hmm... for whatever reason... when we arrived Camilles was dark. Closed. Time for Plan B!

Last year our favorite restaurant was a little french place,
Café Solé. ODM had been pushing all along for a return visit, but I'm always pushing to try new places so thanks to me... we came within a hair's breadth of missing out on what turned out to be our best dinner of the trip!

God bless you, ODM! I once was blind but now can see...


Well, when we arrived - without a reservation - at
Café Solé they were fairly packed. Still... they were kind enough to find us a table. Let me tell you... allow me to reiterate... Café Solé is the best restaurant in Key West. Period. Without a doubt. Bar none. Folks... just check out the menu!

I won't give you a blow by blow recounting of all we ate. Suffice it to say we created our own smorgasbord. Every dish Chef John Correa creates is a labor of love and a product of absolute perfectionism. Let me give you one example: I'd never been a fan of anchovies, that is, until ODM ordered the fresh anchovies as one of our (many!) appetizers.

Delicious. Simply delicious.

The angels on horseback... the conch carpaccio... and on and on and on; from soups and salads to appetizers to entrees... to the wine list... to desserts... as God is my witness I will never again consider "taking a pass" on
Café Solé.

After chatting for awhile with Chef John (by this time we were the only patrons remaining) we took our leave so that John and the staff could close up and enjoy the rest of their night.

Next (and last!) stop...

Back to The Keys Piano Bar!

I admit... we dragged ourselves to The Keys. It was around 10:00 p.m. We were stuffed. We were tired. Still... The Keys was "on the list" and so we felt we just had to drop by, even if only for one nightcap.

Well... we ended up staying till after midnight when the singer and piano player called it a night.

The entertainment was wonderful...! Kathy Kaefer sang. The piano player was awesome as well, but I'm afraid to say... I'm drawing a blank on his name. (I believe it was either Ricky
Ritzel or Mark Watson.) One "civilian" from the audience took the challenge to come up on stage and sing... she was pretty damn good too!

Me? I enjoyed merely watching, listening to, and enjoying the show; good company, excellent entertainment, and kick ass mojitos!

After the show... back to the Curry House. For me... back to the pool for a post-midnight dip. Peaceful. Quite. A beautiful night. A fitting close to our last evening in Key West.

Key West; October 12 -

Time to head home.

Breakfast... swimming... reading on the front deck as MDM packed... and on the road at 10:45 a.m.

The trip to the airport took longer than we'd planned. (Well... we did make two stops - one for gas, one for a souvenir tee shirt for my father-in-law.)

Ted and Mary dropped us off at Miami International. Running, running, running... by the time were got through security and to the gate we were among the last to board. Still... we made it!

The flight left on time... arrived back in LGA on time...

Key West 2009... another fine trip!

Post Vacation Blues


I should have stayed in Key West and drank myself to death.

Six glorious days of totally ignoring the news and I come back to...

Olympia Frigg'n Snowe

Continuing evidence that the inmates are running the asylum in Washington

Hugo Frigg'n Chavez

The Dollar being consigned to the dust bin of history

Vladimir Frigg'n Putin

The coldest Chicago winter in 82 years

Back to the future energy policies

Obama continues his quest to (further) bankrupt the nation

...and so on and so forth.

It's insane, folks; black is white, up is down, wrong is right.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Wednesday Thru Monday...


The annual Key West sojourn!

Doesn't it relax you... just reading those two words - KEY WEST?

Yep. Booked on the 7:50 a.m. out of LGA tomorrow, but hoping to catch the earlier flight!

Drunk'n Ted and ODM (Original Drunk'n Mary) are flying into Ft. Lauderdale tonight, picking up the rental car, staying over, and they'll pick MDM (My Drunk'n Mary) and me up at Miami International when we arrive and from there it's off to the Keys!

Six glorious day! Sun, fun, food, friendship... and cocktails galore!

I'll chat with you folks upon our return!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Bill The Kitchen God

Love to eat... LOVE TO COOK...!!!

A typical Bill lunch:

First... take some marinated artichoke hearts and chop 'em up.

Next... take some pimento stuffed green olives and dice 'em up.

Take three slices of rare roast beef, roll 'em up, slice the roll-up lengthwise... quarter turn and slice again, lengthwise... slice the quartered roll-up into diced pieces.

Take three slices of virginia ham... roll, slice, and dice as per above method.

Now just mix all four ingredients together and set aside - perhaps a couple shakes of salt and pepper to taste.

Take a non-stick frying pan and melt a pat of butter to coat, set to medium high.

Dump "the mix" into the pan and start frying it up, baby!

In the meantime...

Take out a couple slices of whatever type of whole grain bread you like and toast 'em up. When toasted thinly spread mayo on one side of each slice.

Cook "the mix" for three to five minutes - "rare" or "crispy" - your choice!

When "the mix" is almost done cooking - say a minute or so before the consistency is perfect for you - top with finely grated extra sharp cheddar cheese... a couple ounces... to taste. Mix - flip - melt - mix till "the mix" is again a mix... spoon out onto one of the slices of toasted bread... cover with the other slice of toasted bread to make a sandwich, and...

Yummy, yum, yum, yum...!!!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

What I've Been Up To

I know... I know... I've been neglecting the blogging. Sorry about that!

Truth be told, I've been kind of busy with the radio show.

For those who don't know, I do an hour of noontime (till 1:00 p.m.) radio with my buddy (and mentor) John Hicks every Tuesday on WTBQ, which can be found on the AM Dial throughout Orange County, NY and Northwestern NJ at 1110 and the FM Dial at 99.1 in the Town of Warwick, NY and the surrounding area. For those of you interested in checking the show out via internet, go for it! Let me know what you think. Heck... feel free to call in and speak to me live between noon and 1:00 p.m. on Tuesdays via 845-651-1110.

Anyway... I'm going to cut this post short and as is my wont I'm going to use the thread's comments section to post some details concerning the topics we've been talking about on the radio show during the past couple weeks.

Rather than using this main post to cover a variety of topics I'm simply going to post some of my radio show notes - topic shorthand, facts and figures - on the comments page. Read 'em and weep, folks!

Oh... and if any of you have any "off-topic" comments... feel free to use the comments section of this thread for those.