Farmer and the Fish

Last night, after 5 or 6 attempts on previous weekends, we were finally able to obtain an 8 pm dinner reservation at Farmer & the Fish, which is a restaurant in the nearby community of Purdy’s. Since its opening this past spring, this restaurant has seemed perpetually busy.
Farmer & the Fish
Located at the crossroads of Route 116 and Route 22 near North Dreadful (where I live), this promising-looking restaurant has a packed parking lot which surrounds the historic old home.  Inside are wide, uneven gorgeous wooden floor planks and exposed hand-hewn ceiling beams. The walls are hung with historic photos of North Dreadful, on loan from the local historical society.  
We arrived on time and were seated fairly promptly (after the hostess accidentally made eye-contact with one of our party and therefore led her to another table with another couple). Meanwhile we were distracted by a grinning, middle-aged man in an arm-chair in the bar area in conversation with a middle-aged woman on his lap. I found it hard to stop looking at them as much because they were entwined like ice dancers in the final pose of their free dance as they were seemingly having productive discourse in an environment so noisy the hostess could not understand either me or my husband telling her what name the reservation was under.
They have decent wines by the glass, a full bar, and reasonably attentive wait staff who persist in trying to hear and understand despite the noise level. Our waiter was pleasant and earnest. We ordered oysters and salads and halibut and two different lobster dishes between the three of us, and each of us enjoyed our food. The fresh and home-grown quality of all of the produce was notable, from the interesting young lettuce leaves in the salad to the steamed purple carrot on my plate.  
For dessert, we tried a dish which might have been offered as a “berry crisp;” it was tasty, served covered in a lot of vanilla ice cream, but seemed to be simply baked fruit without any baked crisp bit on top at all. I ordered what I believed to be a white chocolate bread pudding with caramel ice cream; my dessert was very pretty and tasty, but the bread pudding seemed to have a brown sauce tasting more like a tangy gravy than anything I’ve been served for dessert before. 

White chocolate bread pudding
Towards the end of our meal a few large parties finished and left, making it possible to hear the music which had been playing in the background. Earlier, my technology-loving husband had tested the sound level using an iPhone app, and measured almost 90 dB. Because the iPhone is not a true scientific instrument, and there are a number of different ways to measure dB, we can only consider this an approximate measure. But as a rule of thumb, a normal conversation might measure 60 dB, and the noisy restaurant at 90 dB is actually much, much louder, and comparable to a lawn mower. Prolonged exposure to loud noises in excess of 85 dB is detrimental to hearing, causing gradual hearing loss. No doubt our pleasant and earnest waiter will expose himself to plenty of loud music or power tools or motorcycle rides that will contribute to his noise-induced hearing loss when he is middle aged. Perhaps by the time the pleasant and earnest waiter is middle aged, he will have a health care plan which will pay for his hearing aids so that if he finds that he is a patron of a trendy restaurant with a woman on his lap he can hear what the woman is saying to him.

Cat Panic 3: Revenge of the Bureaucrats

Yesterday I made my (almost) daily visit to the local post office.  I found a letter in my box that was intended for the box next door, and stood in line for a while, waiting to hand it to a staff member.  I am always alarmed by mis-delivered mail, viewing it as a sign that things just aren’t as reliable as they should be. The woman ahead of me in line was trying to mail a greeting card in a square envelope. It was carefully addressed in her large, loopy cursive, and she had chosen a decorative stamp and applied it in the corner. Because of its unusual dimensions, it was going to require 20¢ extra postage. The customer produced a plastic bag full of a large number and variety of carefully organized postage stamps from her purse and explained to the clerk that she had 5¢ stamps, but felt there was not enough room for them on the envelope.
The clerk looked in the stamp drawer (which is no longer at the counter but is instead somewhere in the back and off to the side) for a 20¢ stamp to sell her, but they had none. They also had no 10¢ stamps, so four 5¢ stamps was her only choice. Together, the clerk and the customer placed the stamps in the remaining space in the upper left hand corner of the envelope. Then, the clerk hand-cancelled the envelope with two rubber-stamps.
Next, I drove over to the local UPS store to send my youngest son’s clothes to summer camp. I was greeted cheerfully by a staff member as I walked in.  The cheerful clerk took my heavy boxes from me and struck up a conversation with me about the retailers whose boxes I had used and about summer camp and about how long it might take the packages to get there.  Customers are listed within UPS’s database by their phone number, and the process is so quick and confidence-inspiring that it was not until I was driving away that I had time to reflect on the contrast to the post office.
Right before we moved in to the Big Red Barn, I was strong-armed told by the belligerent detail-oriented listing agent to apply for a post office box instead of using the mailbox at the top of our drive way. Her argument was, “Yes, you need to.”
The post office in this community is staffed by grouchy detail-oriented people who send back any mail addressed to our street address rather than the post office box number. In large grease pencil they write: NO RECEPTICLE (or sometimesNO RECEPTACLE). The post office is approximately two miles away from our house, which makes it just far enough away not to be a walking destination. It also has a lot of signage about allowing no dogs except service dogs, about the special penalty for robbing a post office, about their brief hours of operation, and about their rates for various sizes of boxes for their state-of-the-artslow shipping.
The mailbox that is/isn’t at the top of the driveway
If you come to visit the Big Red Barn, you can find our driveway between our trash hutch and our non-existent mailbox. If you open our non-existent mailbox, you will find a single letter to a former tenant and several receipts for filling the propane tanks last December. I look in there all the time, just to see if anything happened. If I had a large rubber spider I might want to put it in there when we move out in September.
Within 24 hours of my cat-bite, I had been contacted by Beth at the Westchester County Health Department, who left me a message saying she wanted me to know that they have a process she wanted to explain to me.  We then played phone tag for about a day. When we did have a conversation, Beth told me that as the pet owner I was going to be receiving a letter from the health department which I needed to fill out and return after a 10 day quarantine. She may have described the letter as “harsh,” or even “threatening,” and she assured me it was for public safety.
 There is really nothing funny about rabies, or the possibility of people getting rabies. Even though my cat is now and has always been an “indoor-only” pet, I have always kept him current on all of the recommended vaccines, including rabies.  I am aware of various educated and otherwise law-abiding people in this country who do not vaccinate their pets and/or children based on some sort of logic that common vaccines cause bad things to happen to them.  I don’t know what to say about that kind of thinking other than to wonder about how science is taught in this country.
I do marvel at Beth’s job: she gets to send out a letter to people that is so threatening that she needs to pre-empt it with a friendly phone call. In my case, the post office never delivered my letter, because it was addressed to our physical address and not our post office box. I had the forms emailed to me.
Here are the three emails I received:

Just print out the attached documents. I will call you on 5/31 to check on Schwartz’s health status. Beth
Maggie…was able to print out. I am closing this case..Beth