Tag Archives: Restaurants

Business Is Terrible But Life Is Good: Isn’t That Better Than The Other Way Around?

I was driving four of my friends to the Isle of Palms—a beach community located just north of Charleston, SC—to spend a long New Year’s weekend. We left Ocala at 7:00 in the morning and now, nearly noon, my buddies decided it was time for them to get into the bourbon—after all, we were celebrating the new year.

So there I was, the designated driver for four semi-inebriated, would be philosophers, political prognosticators and rock stars. After hours of discussing the meaning of life; arguing about the presidential election eleven months away—Bill Clinton was running and promising to do something about the cost of health care: sound familiar?—playing air guitars and singing along with the radio, I was relieved when we arrived at our destination.

We had rented a three story, six bedroom home directly on the beach. After unloading suitcases, groceries, and coolers I wandered down to the beach to take a long walk. Upon returning, I learned my buddies had made a tee-time for the following day; not yet having taken up golf, I made plans to spend the day with my friend Anne Dozier and David, another friend who also did not play golf.

The following morning Anne, David and I were watching television trying to decide what to do, when an ad came on for a nearby restaurant promising all the oysters you could eat. An oyster, lover, David insisted, we go there for lunch.

The restaurant steamed and served the oysters in galvanized buckets, with a spare bucket for the shells. We hadn’t finished the first bucket, when David ordered a second; during the third bucket, Anne informed him that we were leaving to do some shopping and would return later.

After spending an hour and a half shopping for groceries and other supplies, Anne and I returned to the restaurant to find it closed. I knew David must be nearby, so I knocked on the door to find out if someone knew his whereabouts. The waitress, who had served us, answered the door exclaiming, “Thank goodness you’re here. Your friend is still eating, the restaurant is closed and we want to go home. Can you get him to leave?”

I can only guess how many buckets of oysters he had consumed; yet, we still had to threaten to make him walk to get him to leave. When he did, he indignantly stomped out of the restaurant, leaving me to make apologies and pay the bill. After that experience and the drive up, I knew the next three days were going to be interesting; I didn’t know I was going to have a life-changing revelation.

Everyone was still asleep the next morning when I decided to go out to purchase a newspaper and a cup of coffee. A warm morning for January, I was sitting outside drinking my coffee, when I read in the paper that, after a long illness, the head of a major corporation had died.

As I read about the passing of the man who had built a large conglomerate and amassed great wealth, I realized that I had been freely given blessings—wealth that could not be purchased—that he would have forfeited his entire fortune for: good health and a wife, family and friends who love and looked after me. This past month, I was reminded of that revelation by a comment from a friend.

We were discussing the current economic nightmare, when my friend said, “Life is good; business is terrible.” No sooner were the words out of his mouth, thinking about the CEO who left behind the great fortune, I responded, “Isn’t that better than the other way around: life is terrible and business is good?”

It is important to put our difficulties into perspective. When I have worries, fret about opportunities missed and my stomach turns at the fear of an economic downturn lasting into the future; it’s then I remind myself that if I lost every penny I had, I would be wealthier than many of those  on the Forbes list of the world’s 400 richest people.


The real measure of your wealth is how much you’d be worth if you lost all your money.”  -Anon.

Roads Not Taken

Tired of the Florida heat, in the fall my father would pack my mother and me in the car and head to Waynesville, North Carolina.

It was a simple trip: start the car, get on U.S. Highway 441 and head north.  His mother lived in McRae, Georgia and that was our first day destination.  I loved visiting my grandmother: she would fix whatever I wanted for breakfast; including fried chicken—still my favorite breakfast food.

The next day we would continue on to Atlanta where we would visit my aunts and uncles—my mother’s brother, my father’s sister and their spouses.  I looked forward to visiting dad’s sister Susan: she was interesting, wealthy and under the front seat of his car, her husband H.L. had a loaded 45 pistol that he would let me hold.

My dad would time our trip from Atlanta to Waynesville to ensure we arrived in Dillard, Georgia at lunchtime.  The Dillard House was and is famous for its family style meals: fried chicken, ham, country steak, green beans, corn on the cob, okra, cornbread and a cobbler.  Sated from eating too much, we would continue north to the intersection with U.S. 74, turn east and after 3 days on the road arrive in Waynesville.

Terri and I love Maggie Valley, a resort town located close to Waynesville.  For us, it’s an easy trip: we get on Interstate 75, stay on interstate highways to Gainesville, Georgia and then take fast, four lane roads to Maggie.  The whole trip, with a couple of stops, only takes nine hours: the equivalent of a day’s work and we are there.

Driving to Maggie, as we roar through Georgia at 80 miles per hour, I think about how long the journey was when the only choice was two-lane roads.  There were no McDonalds, lunch would be eaten in a small town diner and we would sleep at mom and pop motels or a relative’s spare bedroom.  The trip seemed to take forever: it was long and uncomfortable—I now miss that time on the road.

In our hurry to arrive at our destination, we often overlook the adventure of the journey.  I know times are different but the detour from the fast track doesn’t have to be long.  The next time I drive to the mountains, I won’t take the time to drive the distance on 441; however, I am going to have lunch at the Dillard House.


Thanks to the interstate highway system, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.”-Charles Kuralt

The Risks of Fine Dining

I was involved in the search to select a firm to provide administrative services to the workers compensation insurance fund I chaired.  After six months of interviews, travel and meeting we had made our selection and I flew to Orlando—believe it or not, in the early 1980’s there was commercial plane service between Ocala and Orlando—for a dinner celebrating the new relationship and a planning meeting the following day.

A fund employee picked me up at the airport and delivered me to my hotel where I checked my bags and we continued on to the Maison and Jardin restaurant.  I had read about the “Mason Jar” and friends had raved about the food, service and ambience but it was my first time dining there and I was looking forward to the experience.

The president of the service firm was hosting dinner and he insisted on orchestrating the meal.  After cocktails, we started with crepes ala Russe—crepes filled with caviar and sour cream, served with a shot glass filled with chilled vodka.  Following the crepe was a veal chop that was topped with crabmeat and asparagus served with a fine French red wine.  Desert was again crepes, this time flambéed at the table with orange liquor and ice cream and served with a desert wine.  I was stuffed and more than a little tipsy when our host announced that he was ordering Dom Perignon champagne to celebrate the new partnership.

I had read about it but Dom Perignon was not on many wine lists in Ocala—heck, Ernest and Julio weren’t on many wine lists in Ocala—and I was excited about trying it.  Not wanting to dilute the experience of the expensive champagne, I cleared my head by splashing water on my face in the restaurant’s restroom.  The wine was everything I expected; in fact, so good that I ordered and paid for a second bottle.

At the end of the evening I caught a ride back to my hotel, claimed my luggage and started hunting for my room.  The hotel was spread out over acres of land, with numerous buildings and after all I had consumed there was no way I was going to find the way to my accomodations.  So after wandering around for about a half of an hour, returned to the lobby and tipped a bellman $5 to take me to my sleeping place.

And sleep I did—I awoke naked, on the floor, between the double beds.  That was the result of my first experience with the “Mason Jar.”

Several years later Terri and I and two other couples drove from Ocala for dinner at the Maison and Jardin.  Remembering my previous experience and knowing that I had the long drive back to home, I was careful about how much I had to drink.  I was doing fine until one of my friends ordered an after dinner cigar.

The waiter didn’t just deliver a cigar, he delivered an experience as he brought to the table a humidor filled with expensive smokes.  After my buddy picked the cigar he wanted the waiter took it, cut the end off, dipped it in cognac, held it as he lit it with a gold lighter and then presented it to my friend.  I had to have one of those cigars.

It was great!  After the ceremony of choosing and lighting the cigar, I smoked it like Daddy Warbucks would in little orphan Annie.  I felt like a fat-cat banker and a suave suburban millionaire.  Never before could I understand the attraction of a fine cigar and now I knew; I understood; I was part of the club.  Everything was terrific until I went to stand up.

Although I hadn’t smoked anything in over 10 years, it was like riding a bike, I inhaled, I blew smoke rings; in other words, I smoked that cigar like I use to smoke a cigarette and the nicotine kicked me in the butt.  I had watched my consumption of alcohol only to be felled by an expensive cigar.  It was a good thing Terri and I had driven our car and a good thing there was a Holiday Inn motel near the restaurant, because we couldn’t make it home that night.  In fact, I had a hard time driving the next day.

There were other evenings at the “Mason Jar:” the night I advised George Steinbrenner on what wine to order; an evening in the garden room after a wedding and one of our nicest anniversary dinners.  Now the Maison and Jardin is no longer a restaurant but a banquet only facility.  I will miss dining there but I will remember the lessons learned: I would rather pay $100 for a really fine experience than $30 for a mediocre—the memories are worth it; locate your hotel room before going out to dinner and cigars are better left to those who really know how to appreciate them.


We live for the nights we’ll never remember with the people we’ll never forget.” -Anon