Tuesday, April 25, 2017

There Has To Be A Market For What I Can Offer

Hello again, dear reader. I've been busy the last week and a half with several different things, but I do plan on resuming regular posting here.

What's on my mind today is something that's related to something else I've discussed here before, which is the way that so much of what we eat and drink has been reduced in quality. The changes are so subtle, and done so carefully, that it's easy to not ever really notice them.

What brings this up in my mind again is the fact that a few days ago, I decided to spend a little bit more money than I normally would, so that I could try a brand of ginger ale I'd never heard of before.

The brand is called "Fever Tree" and is imported from the United Kingdom.

All I can say is "wow". It is the best tasting ginger ale I've ever had, by a large margin. I am looking forward to buying more of it, and to trying the company's other products, as well.

As you may already know, my second and more recent degree is in hotel and restaurant management. You may also know I've had a very hard time finding a job in the Binghamton area. What you don't know, but I'm telling you now, is that I'm becoming increasingly aware that the only way I may get a job is to go into business for myself.

I trained under a very amazing person who is a master chef. But something I've never quite understood is how he accepts the changes in some things and how many of my fellow students follow his lead on that.

For instance, when I was kitchen manager for the mock wedding, several of my class mates questioned my insistence that we use sugar-sweetened ketchup in making the cocktail sauce for shrimp. Ketchup is ketchup, they said.

But when they tasted the final product, each and every one of them acknowledged that the sauce does taste better that way than when made with ketchup sweetened with high fructose corn syrup.

My point is this. I have always had an inclination towards making the best food and drink that I can.

That simply has to include quality product and quality ingredients. Now that I have some very good training, the food I cook and the drinks I mix taste the way such things did forty or fifty years ago.

People love that, and they say so repeatedly.  So, the question is this. Does this area have enough of a market for the best of the best? Can I make a go of things as a private chef and bartender?

I think it's time for me to try to find the answer to that.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Traveling By Bus-The Good, The Bad and The In-Between

I will post part two of my thoughts about returning to the Binghamton area tomorrow. But in the meanwhile, I wanted to share some of my thoughts about what it can be like to travel across America on buses.

The Good :

1. There are people on the bus and in the station who will be kind to you and look out for your safety. In Kansas City, I lost my re-boarding pass and the new driver had a real attitude about it. Several of the other passengers who I had ridden with all the way from Las Vegas vouched for me, and that was enough to convince the driver I was supposed to get back on the bus.

2. Some bus stations are well staffed and in excellent condition. The station in Kansas City is well maintained, well staffed and has reasonably priced, decent tasting food.

3. The buses themselves have been considerably upgraded over what they were like just a few years ago. Most of them have wi-fi access that's fairly reliable. Most of them have electrical outlets to charge devices. Some of them even have actual toilets that flush as opposed to what are essentially portable toilets in a permanent installation.

The Bad:

1. There is a serious issue with communication (or lack thereof) between drivers and stations.  You are best off if you handle as much of the communications as you can on your own. I really mean that. Call the station you're scheduled to make a transfer at to see if you are on schedule or not.  If you have a serious problem, call the station that is your next stop. If nothing else, you at least can honestly say you reported the situation.
2. Some bus stations are dangerous places, or in very poor condition, or located in not so nice areas. May whatever God or Gods you believe in show mercy and not land you in a station that has all three issues going on. Indianapolis, I'm looking at you. Your station is in a location where I didn't even feel it safe enough to cross the street to get a hamburger. I had plenty of time to do so, and I hate to pass up any chance at getting food from White Castle, but one look at the neighborhood convinced me to stay in the actual terminal.

This was especially shocking as the station is just a few minutes away from Lucas Oil Stadium.

3. Those buses that haven't been replaced or refitted are in very bad condition.

The In-Between:

1. Some drivers are very good, some are very bad and some are just average.

2. Fares can vary quite a bit depending on the day of the week. Also, fares go up a lot over holiday weekends. You can find some really good bargains but sometimes you will overpay by a large amount.

Look, I get it. Inter-city bus travel is the last choice anyone wants to make. There's probably not much of a profit to be made, although the fact that Greyhound is still in business attests to the fact that enough of a profit to remain operational is there. The entire system is still designed, in many ways, to operate the way it did thirty years ago. That's not good, but there doesn't seem to be much of an incentive to change things.

It is what it is.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Back In Binghamton - Part 1

Well, the Las Vegas experiment didn't last long, did it?

It did not, by any means. Three days after I arrived in Las Vegas, I had something happen that made me absolutely certain it was not where I should be at this time. I did like it enough that I would consider a second try under the right circumstances.

Having given up the room I had been renting meant that upon my return to this area, I needed something that was available and inexpensive. That led me back to the Y.M.C.A. where I am now, having paid rent for the remainder of April.

I can say that the bus trip back was something of a mixed bag, as it were. The first sixteen hours I sat next to someone who was inconsiderate in the extreme, keeping me awake all through the night. When we had a driver change in Denver, I quietly and calmly explained the situation and the new driver very graciously offered me the chance to sit in the first row where he could make sure I was reasonably comfortable.

So, from Denver to Columbus, Ohio, everything went just about as well as could be expected. I had good drivers that gave us reasonable amounts of time to get off and stretch a bit, and to eat.

In Columbus, however, another driver change didn't go so well. The driver allowed a lot of bad behavior from some younger children and when stepping off the bus for our first rest stop, I was pushed and fell on the pavement.

I tried to get up on my own. I was unable to. I remained where I was for about two or three minutes,
just hoping someone would offer to help me. No one did. The driver was too busy smoking her damned cigarette to even notice what had happened.

I called for help and am grateful that two young men helped me get back up and asked if I was all right.

I injured both of my knees badly enough to be in a fair amount of pain.

The driver never acknowledged what happened. I have reported her behavior to the appropriate
department. I received a truly genuine apology from the customer service agent I spoke to.

More on all this will be coming later today or sometime tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A Long Trip Ended Yesterday

I am happy to be able to inform you that I made it to Las Vegas safely.  I arrived at 4:40 local time yesterday afternoon.

I spent just a little less than fifty-six hours on the road. My two transfer points were Buffalo, New York and Columbus, Ohio. It was nice to be on the same bus most of the way. All of the drivers I had drove safely. Some of them were friendly and some were not.

I had a reasonable number of rest stops during which I could at least stretch my legs and get a little fresh air. Extended stops to eat came about every three to four hours, which I was grateful for.

Most of my fellow passengers looked to be good people. I sat next to three people at different times. Two were nice, and we had a few light conversations. The bus station that was the nicest was the one in Kansas City. The worst was the one in Indianapolis. That building looks like it hasn't been renovated in a very long time and when the Amtrak trains pull in, the whole building shakes. I did appreciate that food service was available even at the late hour of about three in the morning.

Travel by intercity bus is not the best way to travel. It is, however, the least expensive and relatively safe.

As always, dear reader, thank you for reading what I've written.