After a year and a half of confinement, Mrs. Pincus and I sprang from our quarantine central for a weekend jaunt to Jamestown, New York. Sure, Jamestown is not first on anyone's list as a "must-see vacation destination." It did, however, meet certain criteria. First, Jamestown is a six-hour drive from our home. My wife loves to drive and hates to fly, so this trip seemed a good fit. Second, it is the home of the National Comedy Center, a museum that houses a comprehensive collection of all things geared towards evoking laughter, from the slapstick to the cerebral and every silly thing in between. Jamestown is also the home of the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Museum. It is no coincidence that Jamestown is the birthplace of Lucy and also the location of a museum that chronicles her life, both personal and professional. Personally, I am not a fan of the famous redhead, but Mrs. P and I are drawn to Hollywood kitsch, so this was right up our alley. We imagined taking the tour with the same attitude as when we toured Graceland. We found ourselves in the overwhelming minority among a reverent flock of Elvis disciples on a pilgrimage to their own version of Mecca. The Lucy-Desi experience wasn't nearly as intense, but seeing Lucy's shoes from Season 4, Episode 11 didn't give me the same thrill as it did other guests.
The museums aren't the only "Lucy-centric" attractions in the Jamestown area. Just outside of Jamestown, in the tiny hamlet of Celoron, is Lucille Ball Memorial Park. This lovely little expanse of land sits on the banks of Chautauqua Lake. Dotted with benches, a playground with modern jungle gyms, swings and a few picnic pavilions, the park sports not one but two
statues of its hometown hero and namesake. The star attraction is a beautiful sculpture depicting the so-called "Queen of Comedy" wistfully posing in a polka-dot dress, a wide smile across her instantly recognizable face. It rests atop a marble base, still accessible to the adoring public but lifting the figure just high enough to reinforce its sense of importance. The truth is, this sculpture is the second
one to be displayed in Lucille Ball Memorial Park. The first
one, installed in 2009, is frightening
. The stoop-shouldered figure with its ghastly expression, clutches a realistic-looking bottle of Vitameatavegamin from a memorable 1952 episode of I Love Lucy
, but bares absolutely no
likeness to the late comedian. After much complaint and controversy, a new
statue was commissioned and installed in 2016. The "Scary Lucy," as it became known locally, was moved about 75 feet away. During its seven years in a spot of prominence, it garnered its own
legion of fans. Sadly, the artist who produced the original has since announced that he has abandoned his sculpting efforts.
A short drive from the park is the childhood home of Lucille Ball. A simple looking dwelling, distinctive from its neighbors by the blue-and-white polka-dotted garage in the backyard, sits in the middle of, what is obviously newly-named, Lucy Lane (No relation to Lois. That's in Metropolis.). Lucy only lived in this house for a short time in her early life. A lawsuit and subsequent settlement over an accidental shooting in the the family's backyard, forced Lucy's beloved grandfather into debt. He lost this home, sending Lucy, her mother, brother, stepfather and cousin to find living accommodations elsewhere. However, Lucy maintained a connection to Jamestown, and often visited her childhood home once she became a popular movie and TV star.
After a full day of touristy activities, Mrs. Pincus and I made our way to a restaurant just a stone's throw from Lucille Ball Memorial Park. The park is actually adjacent to a large and active marina. The restaurant is hidden, obscured from the view of any travelers on Boulevard Avenue by several enormous dry dock buildings offering shelter to various boats in various stages of repair. The nondescript building of The Main Landing is haphazardly decorated in a vaguely nautical theme, with weathered pylons, stained rope fishing nets and a few sea-related sculptures that looked like they came straight from the garden department at Home Depot. In the planning of our little trip, Mrs. Pincus secured an online discount for this particular restaurant. Based on the menu we reviewed on their Facebook page, we figured "Eh... how bad could it be?" Not exactly a glowing expectation, but we were only in town for one night and it would not be our last meal before being strapped into the electric chair, so — as they say — what the heck!
We pulled up and parked our car on a plot of wet grass in front of The Main Landing's elevated porch. There were two other cars already parked when we arrived. On the front door was a poorly worded, computer printed sign warning those who enter to be prepared for a possible lengthy wait for service, as they are short staffed. The sign's sentiment was very blunt and not the least bit apologetic in tone. Guests enter The Main Landing to a small bar area. Here, we were "greeted" (if you can call it a "greeting") by a harried woman behind the bar, a scowl on her face. Another woman in an apron, smiling and much friendlier, asked if it would be just the two of us for dinner. The woman at the bar, with a hoarse voice tinged from too many years of tobacco abuse, suddenly barked, "Do you have a reservation?"
My wife spoke up. "I didn't know we needed one." I glanced around the small, but very empty
dining room. There was a couple with a baby at a table in one corner. Another table afforded seating for a family that appeared to be celebrating something
, as betrayed by a cake at the center of their dinner spread. The rest of the tables remained empty, set and silent, waiting for those many, many
reservations to be fulfilled. The time was approximately 6 PM. The restaurant closed at 7:30 — another curiosity for a dining establishment in a summer tourist area near a marina. And one with a bar.
The aproned woman quickly ran interference. "We'll be fine. We can seat you without a reservation." The woman at the bar interrupted, delivering an angry ultimatum, "Okay, we can seat just you two, but after that — no more!" We were dumbfounded. Apparently, we looked as though we were running a separate service for customers wishing immediate seating and skirting the reservations requirement. The woman in the apron grabbed a couple of laminated menus and led us to one of the many empty tables. As we took our seats, she whispered an apology. "I am so sorry. She had no right to speak to you that way. You don't need a reservation. She's the owner, but she should know better." Then she added, "I'm the owner now. I'll take care of you." It was very reminiscent of the chilling line from Captain Phillips and had somewhat of the same effect.
My wife and I perused the menu, looking for some sort of seafood that would fit into our limited seafood diet. (Although I am a vegetarian, I do eat some
fish. I suppose that makes me a pescatarian. My wife and I also observe kashrut
[keeping kosher], so any shell-wearing, bottom-feeding, shit-eating denizen from the deep is not
up for inclusion on our dinner plate.) I selected baked haddock, prepared in an Italian style with peppers and tomatoes. My spouse chose grilled salmon prepared in a... grilled
style. We decided to split a baked brie appetizer. Actually, we were trying to build up the total, as our discount was half off a final bill of $50 or more. The aproned woman took our order and disappeared. Nearly fifteen minutes later, a different
young lady filled our water glasses and asked if we'd like something from the bar. Mrs. P ordered a glass of sangria. Not a regular imbiber of alcoholic beverages, she likes sangria. Plus, at nine bucks a glass, it was guaranteed to further drive up our final bill.
We waited for our dinner to arrive. We watched as the dining room remained empty and the clock ticked closer to closing time. The couple with the baby left. The celebrating family lingered. Only two
additional tables welcomed occupants, none
of whom I heard being questioned as to their efforts to secure a reservation. After a long wait — well, we were
warned by the sign on the door — our dinner was served. In all honesty, it was pretty good. I admit, that
came as a surprise. I really expected it to bland and forgettable. But, I enjoyed it. The fish and accompanying broccoli were both delicious. The tomato and pepper garnish was delicious as well. My Pincus was just as satisfied by her salmon. There was something missing, however. While I cannot speak for the dining practices and customs in Western New York, where I
come from, appetizers are usually served before
the main course. If they are served once the main course is completed, they go by a different
name. They call it "dessert." Our appetizer was on the path to meet a similar fate.
It took some time, but we finally got the attention of the woman in the apron. She came to our table to ask how everything was going and to apologize again
for the owner's behavior. Waiting for a break in her conversation, Mrs. Pincus pointed out that we never got our baked brie. By this time, we were both nearly finished our meal. (Oh, and those multitudes of reservation holders were all no-shows.) The aproned woman launched into a new
set of apologies and offered to bring out our appetizer immediately. In half the time it took for our dinners to show, the brie was placed on our table with a tray of assorted crackers. A small wheel of brie was drenched in candied pecans and maple syrup. Despite being listed on the "Appetizer" section of the menu, it was sweet enough to be called "dessert." But, since we were on vacation, we ordered another dessert anyway. Our choice was something touted as "Chocolate Lasagna." While its name was indeed cute, this frozen concoction was not remotely like lasagna. It was an ice cream sandwich covered in caramel and crushed chocolate toffee. It was pretty good, too.
During the course of our meal, the woman from the bar strolled the dining to and stopped to chit-chat with the folks at the tables near us. From the tone of their conversation, they were obviously regular customers. She laughed and joked and their exchange had a lively air. She walked silently past us on her way to an outdoor deck at the rear of the building where she continued her jolly banter with a couple of shirtless young men donning life jackets and heading down a narrow, wood-planked dock towards a waiting boat. She leaned against a wooden post and gazed dreamily as they boarded and tooled out of the marina area. She waved.
When it came time to pay, the online discount encountered some trouble. We have experienced similar difficulty with this same website at several different restaurants. The gist of the situation was that, according to the website, our discount had already been used. After a bit of discussion and possible solutions to our dilemma, the woman at the bar changed her previous attitude. She became concerned and accommodating and offered to give us the discount no matter if the website told otherwise. Her complete "one-eighty" personality metamorphosis was unexpected. Welcome, yes — but decidedly unexpected.
A little closer to home, I would absolutely be inclined to never return to this restaurant again. Considering that we saw all we intended or needed to see in Jamestown, New York — our experience with The Main Landing yielded the same result. The food was good. The attitude was strange. And it's six hours away.
We can eat good food and get treated like crap right here at home.