Sunday, October 16, 2016

keep your hands to yourself

What the hell is the matter with men?

Recently, there has been a lot of talk and accusations and speculation in the news about the behavior of men. This "hot button" topic was ignited by the actions of one particular man who is seeking the office of President of the United States. He has been recorded, both on audio and video, happily bragging about his exploits with women. It seems — at least the way he tells it — that he could see no difference between whether his advances were welcome or unwelcome. I don't wish for this to turn into a political commentary. As a matter of fact, I have purposely steered clear of any sort of political content on this blog, save for this single post during the current campaign season. Instead, I wish to address the outrageous behavior I have witnessed from men in the workplace... and how, as a man, it horrifies me.

Years ago, my wife's friend was married to a man whose behavior could be deemed as "unsavory." He worked as a copier repairman, a job that required him to go from office to office to service out-of-commission copiers. I have worked in many offices and encountered many copier repairmen. Our interaction was usually limited to a cordial "hello" when they arrived, followed by direction to the copier in question. Then, an hour of so later, he'd return, straightening his tie with toner-stained hands and asking for a signature on his work order. And that's it. He's out of your life until the next time the copier acts up... and even then there's no guarantee that the same guy will show up. Well, the guy we knew was fired from his job for sexual harassment. It seems he made an inappropriate comment to a secretary (a woman he did not know) at an office where he was not an employee. I can't figure out how the opportunity arises to have a conversation with someone in a workplace in which you are a guest — let alone — breach the conversation with a lascivious remark. He managed to get another job at a rival copier repair company and — wouldn't you know — he was fired again for the exact same offense, but at a different office!

At my last job, I briefly worked with a department supervisor named Mike. Mike was an intense, frenetic bundle of nervous energy. My position, at the nation's largest after-market auto parts retailer, was in the production of the company's newspaper advertisements. I worked in a large room of cubicles with ten other artists, all doing the same thing — and that was preparing multi-page circulars for newspaper distribution. Due to the breakneck pace that needed to be maintained, we employed the services of a number of artists who worked as outside contractors (or freelancers, if you will). One morning, Mike was sitting with a female freelancer at the cubicle just behind mine. He was explaining how he wanted a particular ad composed. After she bristled several times at Mike's leering usage of the word "sweetheart," she bolted from her desk when he placed an uninvited hand upon her exposed knee. The young lady stormed in the department head's office and, in a hail of obscenity-laced shrieks, she made it clear that she would never set foot on these premises again. Mike was reprimanded, though not firmly enough. Within a day or two, he was the object of several grievances from a number of other female employees, including one long-time production artist who was subjected to Mike delivering a lengthy instruction while his eyes laser-focused on her chest. Once again, Mike was chided for his behavior, but not fired. He allegedly attended sensitivity classes, but I noticed no change in his demeanor. Eventually, Mike pushed a male worker too far and the guy — who bested Mike in the height department by nearly half a foot — had to be restrained. Mike quit the next day.

At my current job, a man in an executive position regularly spoke in derogatory terms about women (as well as various ethnic and religious groups). Almost immediately after taking the job, he began to use the foulest of language and make the most inappropriate comments at the most inappropriate times to the absolute wrong people. He also (so I heard) made unwanted physical contact with a few female members of my department.

Although he was reprimanded many times, he was not let go. I speculated (as had been the case with Mike) that filling his position was a long and grueling process. It was a procedure that the company did not want to undertake again so soon. So instead of doing the right thing, they just stuck it out with this guy until they could no longer take it. He was eventually removed for reasons that were never made public. One morning he was there and, late in the day, he wasn't.

I have been in the workforce for a little over thirty years. I have always maintained a cordial working relationship with all of my coworkers. I made sure, however, I never got too ingratiated on a personal level. I remained friendly enough to achieve the common goals as set by our employer.

I have had many female immediate superiors. I actually prefer working for a woman than a man. Women, I have observed, are harder and more dedicated workers, while men, for the most part, are egotistical blowhards who are more concerned with wielding authority than actually accomplishing the job at hand. (There are some women who fit this model, though they are few and far between.) Over the years, I did gain "work friends" — some of them female — that I have kept long after I left the company that brought those friendships to be. I like them very much, but I am still a bit uneasy hugging them.

I will say, however, that I have always been very careful with female coworkers. In my personal life, I am not a "hugger." I am not comfortable hugging anyone who is not my wife or my son. It's nothing personal. I like many people that I just won't hug. I admit that it can get awkward, especially since my wife has no problem being "huggy-kissy." In the workplace, I have always been very careful not to touch a female co-worker in any way. I will not (nor have I ever) compliment a female coworker on clothes, hair, jewelry... anything. I fear that any — any — innocent contact or attempted compliment could be misconstrued and jeopardize my employment status. You never really know how someone is going to react, so, as they say, "better safe than sorry." Very sorry.

It is a revealing reflection of current attitudes that, for the first time in the history of the United States, a major political party has nominated a woman as their presidential candidate... and the man she's running against is disgusting.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

no time left for you

We had another yard sale. This time, we went in a slightly different direction, offering more household items and less items from Mrs. Pincus's eBay store.

After spending the week filling our living room to overflowing capacity with a vast selection of items, we plastered the neighborhood with signs announcing the date and time. Early on Saturday morning, we arranged the stuff on our front lawn and driveway in such a way as to avoid another possible lawsuit. Then we waited for customers,

Meanwhile, our neighbors across the street, set up their own offerings on their lawn, They were the ones who first proposed the idea of a yard sale to my wife a few years ago. Rae dragged a few items down the long walkway that bisects their front lawn. She set a large, plastic storage bin upside down near the sidewalk as an improvised tabletop and placed a few small items on its bumpy surface. She pulled up a folding chair and also waited for customers.

Our lawn soon began to draw a few people whose attention had been distracted as they strolled down our street. However, I glanced across the street to see that Rae was nowhere in sight. Instead, the plastic bin was now filled with the items that once graced its base. A hand-written sign reading "FREE" was taped on the container's side, Rae's yard sale had lasted approximately four minutes... and that was being generous with the time. I imagined that her calendar was marked on this particular Saturday with a five minute block allotted for "YARD SALE" — including set-up time. I'm certainly not faulting her. Some people just don't have the patience for retail.

Or to sit with a lawn full of their shit.

Monday, October 3, 2016

sunday morning coming down

The Jewish New Year is upon us again. In years past, this was a pretty big deal around the Pincus household. But, more recently, as my view of religion has waned, it has become just another day. My wife, however, still chooses to embrace the traditions in which she was raised and I fully support her wishes. 

As in past years, my in-laws are hosting dinner for the first evening of the holiday. (I'm not sure how many days this one rages on for. Two, maybe three days.) Right now, as I write this, Mrs. Pincus is busy in the kitchen, baking some of her specialty treats to serve at the meal's completion. In addition to Mrs. P's homemade baked goods, she likes to have another traditional holiday.. um... dessert gracing the table — the esteemed taiglach.

Taiglach is a collection of small balls of baked dough, sometimes called called mandlen*, boiled in a sweet honey syrup, then mixed with nuts and dried fruit. The mixture is either distributed into small paper cups or piled high into a vague pyramid and pulled apart with the fingers... those fingers then brazenly licked accordingly to remove any remaining remnant of honey. And it often looks like this...
Sort of appetizing, in a quaint, old-world, peasant kind of way. I tasted it once, many years ago, around the time I had my first introductions to a lot of Jewish traditions of which I was not previously aware. It was a strange mingling of flavors, some of which I could not quite place. It was not bad. It just wasn't good and I chose not to partake of any more. My wife and her father gobbled it up as though it was manna. Perhaps, to them, with their long association with the dessert, it was. Me, however... I took a pass.

This morning, when my wife woke up, she remembered that she did not purchase a taiglach for this year's dinner. In her opinion (which I would hotly contest), it would not be Rosh Hashana without a big ol' taiglach occupying a special place on my mother-in-law's linen-covered (then clear-plastic-covered) holiday table. Quickly, she called a bakery (yes, these things are purchased in a bakery) around the corner from our house to see if they still had taiglach left, what with the rush for holiday baked goods at hand. The good folks at the bakery said they were well stocked. Mrs. P asked if I would pop over (a little bakery humor there) and pick one up. I got dressed, pulled on a pair of shoes and hoofed it over the the bakery, which is within walking distance from our home.

Situated in a compact, basement-level space behind a strip of commercial properties, the bakery is accessible by a narrow set of stairs that can only accommodate one person at a time — either entering or exiting. I allowed two gentlemen gripping bags of bagels and a woman carrying some sort of dry-looking cake to pass before I descended the steps into the bakery. The lit glass display cases were full of beige and crumbly baked goods, none which appeared the least bit appealing. A display of plastic containers, not unlike a corner deli uses to package a pint of cole slaw, were stacked high atop tall refrigerated case. The containers were identified by a cardboard sign with a single word scrawled across it — "Taiglach." I examined the display more closely. These things didn't remotely resemble any of the taiglach I had seen in the past thirty years. They, in fact, looked more like the leftovers of a big serving of sweet and sour soup from a Chinese restaurant — dark brown, thick and packed with beans and other unidentifiable ingredients. I exited the bakery and called Mrs. Pincus.

"They have some stuff that they are calling taiglach," I began when she answered the phone, "but it doesn't look like any taiglach I've ever seen."

She asked me to describe it and I related its similarity to Asian soup. She laughed and asked me to buy it anyway. I said I would, with the caveat that when I get it home, she may not say, "What the hell is this?" when she sees it.

I went back into the bakery and made my purchase. I took the bag containing the possible taiglach from the bakery lady's hand and proceed home. When I got home and pulled it from the bag, Mrs. P didn't seem as upset or confused as I had been, considering it looked like this...
... not the symmetrical, gooey sculpture we were both used to.

It doesn't really matter. I have no plans to eat it anyway.

* no, not the musical instrument, the "soup nuts."

Sunday, October 2, 2016

again and again and again and again

In 2005, filmmaker/comedian Paul Provenza and filmmaker/magician Penn Jillette produced a documentary called The Aristocrats. Similar in title (but not remotely in content) to a beloved Disney film, The Aristocrats examines the origins and evolution of a so-called "secret" joke, told only in hushed tones among the closed society of comedians. The joke's setup and punchline remain the same in each telling and retelling — "A man walks into a talent agent's office." — and proceeds to describe a particular act. The unique embellishments are added by the individual comedian. The object in making the joke "one's own" is to elucidate the most vile and disgusting scenarios imaginable. Some versions of the joke have gone on for hours and have described some of the most shocking, outrageous and repugnant acts involving family members, pets and inanimate objects and any combination of the three. The punchline — The agent asks the name of the act, and the reply is always "The Aristocrats!," accompanied by a graceful double-snap of the fingers — which, by the time the exhaustive tale winds down, has become secondary to the horrific narrative that preceded. Over the course of the documentary's 88 minute run time, the joke is told many, many, many times, by a vast array of veteran and up-and-coming comedians. My son and I first saw the film in a nearly empty theater and our own uncontrollable laughter drowned out a portion of the dialog on several occasions.

When The Aristocrats was released on DVD, I purchased a copy and my son and I watched it again on a Sunday afternoon. And, once again, we found ourselves doubled over in hysterics. On this viewing, however, we could rewind the action to see what we had missed. My wife, who chose not to watch with us, flitted around the house, taking care of household things that needed taking care of. At one point, she walked past the doorway of the den to find my son and I literally rolling on the sofa crying and eliciting peals of laughter. She crossed her arms and with a furrowed brow and her head cocked to one side, said, "I can't believe you two idiots are laughing at the same joke for an hour and a half."

The incident got me thinking about all the things I like to do over and over again — and it turns out, it's quite a lot.  I've been to Walt Disney World over a dozen times. When we finally took a chance and ventured westward to Disneyland, we visited that theme park for six consecutive years. 

I have often caught myself watching a movie (Back to The Future, Singin' in the Rain  or It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, for example) I have seen a hundred times, either accidentally coming across it while scanning the channels on television or actually setting aside time when I discover a scheduled broadcast. The same goes for specific episodes of television series. The "Adam's Ribs" episode of M*A*S*H comes to mind.

Just this week, my son and I saw the pop group The Bird and The Bee perform a rare show in Philadelphia. The last time they were in our fair city was six years earlier. Guess where we were on that night? Yep, seeing their rare Philadelphia performance.

On my birthday in 2012, my son introduced me to this little band from right here in Philadelphia, called Low Cut Connie (remember that name — you'll be screaming it later.) We were pushed right up against the stage at the now-musicless North Star Bar in the sweaty swell of the crowd. These guys — as they say — delivered the goods, cranking out vintage-style, hip-swiveling, high-octane rock and roll to the delight of the frenzied throng packed into the tiny, narrow showroom. In keeping with my repetitive pattern, I saw The Connie boys again on my birthday the following year. I have seen them a gazillion times since, including last night at Philly's venerable Trocadero Theater, their latest show to date. Although they have experienced several personnel changes over the years, Low Cut Connie remains one of the greatest, rawest, showiest, most energetic "party" bands I've ever seen, and so far, they are Philadelphia's best-kept secret. However, after an inclusion on President Obama's personal 2015 Spotify playlist, they seem to be poised for the stardom they most definitely deserve. 

And I will to continue to see them until they have to wheel me into concerts.

When I was a kid, my father was convinced that I could eat pizza for dinner every single night. I think he was right. Hmmm... maybe this repetition thing started further back than I thought.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

we're two ships that pass in the night

I met Jonathan three times. 

The first time I met Jonathan was at the end of February 1982. I was an art student, working at my cousin's heath food restaurant in Center City Philadelphia. Jonathan came in to the restaurant with a date. His date would become my wife two years later. Jonathan and the future Mrs. Pincus were close friends growing up. Their parents were friends. Actually, the first time young Mrs. P laid eyes on him, she was head-over-heels in love. It was a strange bit of "kismet" that Jonathan chose to bring her to the restaurant where I worked on that particular evening. I didn't really have too much to say to Jonathan. I remember he was a good-looking guy, but I was too busy chatting up his pretty companion. She, however, thought I was the most obnoxious person she ever met. I know this, because she told me so. Right then and there.

The next time I saw Jonathan was in 2001. My wife, my son and I attended the bat mitzvah of a classmate of my son. The young lady, Gabby, was Jonathan's niece. After the service, we mingled among the guests. Jonathan approached us. My wife smiled at Jonathan, although he didn't look at all familiar to me. He and Mrs. Pincus embraced. He shook my hand and turned to my then thirteen year-old son and introduced himself. "I'm your mom's first husband.," he said, with a wink. My son, a bit panicked, turned to me and cocked his head in confusion. (Just a note: That is not something you say to a thirteen year-old.) We explained that Jonathan was an old friend and he was, indeed, kidding.

I saw Jonathan one more time. It was a week or so ago, just after Labor Day 2016. Actually, I saw him at the same synagogue that our paths crossed fifteen years earlier. This time, however, it was not for a joyous occasion. We were joining hundreds of other mourners at a post-funeral shiva for Jonathan's sister-in-law Linda, who had passed away after a long struggle with cancer. Mrs. P and I maneuvered our way through the crowd, shaking hands and patting backs, until we came upon Jonathan. Again, like they had done previously, my wife hugged Jonathan. Jonathan shook my hand heartily and said, "How'ya doing, buddy?" I don't believe that he remembered my name, but that was okay. He was friendly enough and exhibited no hard feelings that I was happily married to his one-time date for the past 32 years.

Jonathan took his own life on September 16, taking with him the opportunity to see him again.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

say something, say something... anything

Once again, Mrs. Pincus and I attended the annual Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention in Cockeysville, Maryland, the three day gathering of vendors, speakers, authors, celebrities and various other purveyors of pop culture from days past. We have taken the two hour drive south on I-95 many times over the past few years to this show. But this year's show has the potential to be our last.

I like to go to this show to add to my ever-expanding collection of autographed celebrity photographs. Mrs. P, on the other hand, dislikes the ritual of lining up and fawning over an actor who hasn't had an on-screen credit in over forty years. She prefers to scour the vendor area, searching for that elusive treasure on which she can turn a quick profit on eBay. Every once in a while, this show touts an appearance from a celebrity that sparks a warm and pleasant memory from our past, making our anticipation a bit more antsy.

Months ago, The Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention. or MANC, as it is known to regulars, has grown exponentially since the first one we attended. It has noticeably gotten more crowded, probably due to the fact that show promoter and organizer Martin Grams Jr., has worked diligently to book celebrities that charge no more than $30 for an autographed photo. That is quite an accomplishment in the current trend set by such convention big-wigs as ComicCon and Chiller Theater, who have come to dictate the outrageous going rate of such memorabilia. Martin once told me that Adam West, TVs 1960s Batman, refused to budge on his $60 asking price and, therefore, would not commit to an appearance. Because MANC offers a more informal and personal atmosphere, as opposed to the rigid, cattle-chute, "get-em-in-and-get-em-out" procedure of other shows, its popularity has grown. It has also suffered somewhat.

Last year, Martin managed to book Lee Majors and Richard Anderson from The Six Million Dollar Man and Lindsay Wagner from The Bionic Woman. This was a major coup and the trio drew a lot more guests that would have normally attended the show. However, they also charged $40 each per autograph. Martin explained that he wrestled with breaking his own policy and regretfully consented because it was a "once-in-a-life" assemblage for fans. he promised to stick to his rules in future years. Mrs. P and I reluctantly shelled out $40 to Lee Majors, as my wife was a devoted fan of the show as a teenager. We did the same for Lindsay Wagner, who, disappointingly, came off as a stuck-up jerk.

This year's celebrity roster was announced several months ago and featured some enticing actors from beloved films and television shows from our youth. I was most interested in meeting Kathy Garver, best remembered as Buffy and Jody's big sister "Cissy" on the sentimental 60s sitcom Family Affair. I love Family Affair. There I said it! Also included in this year's group was Britt Ekland, the sultry Swedish bombshell and one-time Bond Girl (in The Man with The Golden Gun, reteaming her with her Wicker Man co-star, the late great Christopher Lee). Also included was movie and TV tough guy Robert Conrad, John Amos, star of Roots, Good Times and Coming to America, Debra Paget, the pretty diminutive actress from The Ten Commandments and Dabney Coleman, known for War Games, 9 to 5 and HBO's Boardwalk Empire. The real draw for Mrs. Pincus was Robert Fuller, rugged star of TV Westerns Laramie and Wagon Train. But to Mrs. P,  Fuller will always be cool Dr. Kelly Brackett on Emergency!, the original "Doctor Dreamy," nearly three decades before the moniker attached itself to Patrick Dempsey on Grey's Anatomy. (I was just informed that the character's name was "Doctor McDreamy." I never watched either show, so I apologize to anyone I may have offended.)

In the early afternoon, we parked in the Hunt Valley Wyndham Hotel's parking lot and followed the paved and landscaped walkway to the entrance. After handing over our pre-purchased admission tickets, we were unceremoniously informed that Dabney Coleman, John Amos and Debra Paget had all canceled. We were instantly disappointed, but still, we made our way though the aisles of vendors offering their pieces of the past. Mrs. P's interest was piqued by a few items, but nothing worth a full on negotiation. We descended a rickety escalator to the hotel's lower floor, where more vendors and the room housing the celebrities awaited.

I spotted an attractive, but heavily made-up older woman who I soon identified as Britt Ekland, seated along a row of tables. She was entertaining a group of fans, so I decided to press on and come back to Miss Elkand at a later time. At the end of the row was our old pal Geri Reichl, best known as replacing the uninterested Eve Plumb in the short-lived Brady Bunch Hour, a poorly-conceived variety show featuring America's favorite blended family. We have encountered Geri at enough shows that we have forged a budding friendship... an easy task, as Geri is a sweetheart. Seated next to Geri was Kathy Garver. She was surrounded by glossy photos highlighting scenes from Family Affair, as well as stills from her brief, uncredited appearance as a slave child in The Ten Commandments, guest roles in Adam-12 and Dr. Kildare, and shots of Firestar, the superhero character she voiced on Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends in the 80s. Of course, we chatted briefly with Miss Garver about Family Affair, purchased a signed photo and snapped a photo of her holding our traveling buddy Pudge

Mrs. P was looking at some potential purchase as I made my way back to Britt Ekland, who, by this time, was sitting idly at her table, sipping a cup of coffee. I approached and offered a friendly "Hi Britt." She lit up, a smile stretching wide across her face. I told her how much I loved The Wicker Man and The Night They Raided Minsky's, two early entries in her six-decade career. I could have talked and questioned her at length about her interesting and illustrious life, including her four-year marriage to Peter Sellers, a longer union with Stray Cats' drummer Slim Jim Phantom and her notorious tryst with rocker Rod Stewart, which inspired him to write his hit Tonight's the Night in 1977. After signing a picture for me, she — not me — suggested I pose for a photo with her, directing me around the table for an intimate shot. As Britt was maneuvering her slight frame close to me, I caught a glimpse of Mrs. Pincus ten feet away, mouthing, "What do you think you're doing?" in faux jealousy. Britt laughed and purposely snuggled in closer. Once the picture was snapped by her assistant, she insisted I check it to make sure it met my satisfaction — something no other celebrity has ever done.

Out in a hallway, lines were forming for a chance to meet Robert Conrad and Robert Fuller. A group of show staff were furiously working to corral eager guests in an orderly fashion. We asked a staff member to point out the end of the line, but were informed that the line was now closed. Once again, we were disappointed, but now our disappointment was accompanied by anger. Our questions, "Will Mr. Conrad and Mr. Fuller be returning later in day?," were were met with shrugs. We headed back to the vendor room, determined to check back later for a shorter line. After an hour of perusal and few purchases, we returned to the Conrad/Fuller lines, only to be told that they were, again, closed and no more guests would be accommodated. Mrs. P fumed. "I'm done with this goddamn show!," she proclaimed angrily. We went to say our "goodbyes" to Geri Reichel and were delayed as Mrs. P vented her dismay to Geri's sympathetic ear. 

As we started for the exit, I pointed out show organizer Martin Grams to my wife. Mrs. P walked right over to him and laid in. She expressed her disappointment and frustration over three cancellations and continued with her further disappointment over how the lines for Robert Fuller and Robert Conrad were being maintained. Suddenly, Martin interrupted my wife's tirade with a gentle "I'll get you in. No problem." He silently led us to the outdoor waiting area and requested the staff member-on-duty place us at the end of the line. The harried woman attempted to argue, saying she had firm instruction to not allow anyone else to join the queue. Martin flatly repeated, "Let them in the line. This is my show." Without another word, we took our place as the anchor of the snaking line.

We waited nearly two hours, biding our time with conversations with other fans, until we were granted access to Mr.  Fuller, a tall lanky fellow sporting a large black cowboy hat. Mrs. Pincus gushed as she confessed her love for Emergency! and his character on the show. I offered Mr. Fuller a print of this drawing I did of the Emergency! cast. He marveled at the sketch and complimented me. Mrs. Pincus selected a photo for him to inscribe, then  he waved me off as I withdrew a $20 bill from my wallet and attempted to pay him. "I'm gonna get a frame for that drawing. You're a hell of an artist." he said. He rose to pose for a photo with us, still cutting a handsome and imposing figure at 83 years old, although he has trimmed back those awesome sideburns quite a bit. After a few shots were snapped off, he shook my hand and planted a long-overdue kiss on Mrs. Pincus's cheek. She was in heaven.

Robert Conrad, the dashing star of Wild, Wild West, Black Sheep Squadron and the one-time cocky and competitive leader of Battle of the Network Stars, has, unfortunately, been rendered partly paralyzed by a car accident in 2003. Once a righty, he now has to scrawl his shaky signature with his left hand with unsteady accuracy. He has not, however, lost his snide wit. He cracked sarcastic jokes and off-color innuendo to the delight of the fans awaiting a personal audience with the actor, At 81, he is thin and weathered, but his brash personality has not lost its edge. His endearing arrogance has not been tarnished by time or disability. He stayed until every fan was treated to the short tête-à-tête they had hoped for. I understood he did the same thing on the previous day.

Before we left, Mrs. Pincus and I stopped off at our respective restrooms in anticipation of the long drive home. As I reached out to push the men's room door open, I was met by Robert Fuller about to push the door as well. We each laughed and I respectfully allowed the venerable actor to enter first. I followed him into the empty bathroom and we each selected urinals on opposite ends of the far wall. And this paragraph is officially over.

Mrs. Pincus and I tracked down and thanked Martin once again for his thoughtfulness and for accommodating us above and beyond. We sheepishly admitted to expecting an angry confrontation, but we were grateful for the unexpected result. We told him we would be back again net year.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

one more for my baby and one more for the road

This will be my last post ever about Movie Tavern. I hope.

Mrs. Pincus and I, once again, subjected ourselves to the ordeal that is Movie Tavern. Boy, this is quite a change in feeling from our first visit to the movie/restaurant combo chain. We loved our first experience at Movie Tavern so much that we couldn't imagine ever going to another theater. It was that good.

Until our second visit.

The second time we went to Movie Tavern, we were anxious and excited to return. We, of course, were expecting the same impeccable, finely-tuned, precision service that made our first trip so pleasurable. Instead, we were subjected to confused waitstaff, crossed signals, multiple incorrect orders, an inaccurate check and unconcerned management. After a written complaint to the corporate office, we were enticed with free passes to give Movie Tavern another chance. It turns out that our first experience at Movie Tavern was the exception and mediocrity was the norm.

It's funny, after not going to the movies for years, Mrs. P and I have attended a half dozen first-run films this year. It's very uncharacteristic for us. Movie Tavern had a lot to do with that. We loved it the first time, but subsequent visits have been to use free passes, obtained either from birthday promotions or to make up for crappy service. We used our final complementary admission this past Saturday. After our server walked past us several times without saying anything.... After we never got the requested lemon slices for our water.... After our appetizer came well after we received our main course.... After our server picked up the check portfolio before I had a chance to total it up, Mrs. P asked me, "Do we ever have to come back here again?" She begged me not to complain about the service this time, lest we get more free passes and have to suffer though this again.

Earlier in the week, we took my in-laws to a regular movie theater. It was a pleasure. We bought tickets. We sat in comfortable seats. We enjoyed a regular experience at the movies, one that we had enjoyed many, many times before. And afterwards, we went to a diner and had something to eat. Like normal people. While we once admired the concept of combining the movie-watching experience with the dining experience, we decided the two should really be kept separate. Why are we in such a rush to kill two birds with one stone? Especially two things that are supposed to be enjoyed leisurely. We have such limited amounts of free time in our lives, why do we want to consolidate our free time activities?

Well, we won't anymore.

Goodbye, Movie Tavern. It's your final curtain call. Check, please.