10 January 2019

This might be a break-up; it's definitely a "break"

I recently posted here about an issue I took with my favorite restaurant, Tea and Sympathy  Yes, it was a complaint, but I was sure I'd return, and of course I did since that post.  When you love something, it takes more than a little disappointment over a menu change to keep you from returning.  Now, though, I'm at the point of no return, or at least a point of doubtful return.  And it's a difficult feeling, especially at a time of so many other changes in my life (more on that another time, maybe).  

Many years ago I had a terrible experience at another favorite tea shop, Teany.  Even so, I gave them one more chance to redeem themselves, and they sort of did, but not enough for me to really want to keep going back.  They are gone now, and it's for the best.  I don't want Tea and Sympathy to go, but last week I had an experience that made me agree with their bad reviews, and I suspect my money can be spent better elsewhere.

I've had complaints before.  I don't like eating in crowded spaces, and because it's a small and popular place, you'll inevitably dodge elbows and nearby conversations whether you like it or not.  Somehow I put up with the human proximity.  I noticed sometimes the servers were not terribly nice (while some are, to be fair).  I excused this, thinking it contributes to the English atmosphere, and continued to tip like an American while ignoring the irony.  I put up with the price being a little higher for credit card users, because technology and such.  

Oh, and I observed The Rules.  This is a little list posted on the outside of the shop and on the menus.  It's a little kooky, but these things are usually derived from experience in running a business.  One rule is that you can't be seated until your whole party arrives.  Another urges pleasantness to the waitresses, and another advises you that you may be moved from your table.  The rest is about tipping and minimums, and I get that.  So all these years I always arrived with my full party, I was nice to the waitresses (when am I not, though?), and if I had to move, I'd do so, even with a mouth full of scone.  I loved the place that much that these things weren't exactly putting me off.  I felt differently last week.

My friend Cathy and I went a couple of Sundays ago for a last visit before her upcoming move to the West Coast.  It turned out we were seated too early for the menu items we wanted, so we got Afternoon Tea, which we loved, and planned to come back after work on a Wednesday night.  Maybe that's indulgent, but both of us loved Tea and Sympathy so much, and would miss going there together.

Cathy's been going for over a decade, and I've been since 1995.  If someone asked me what was my favorite restaurant, it was always the same answer, and as I've said, I have brought everyone I possibly could there to share in my joys.  If they complained about something in the service or food, or the price, I made every excuse, because, again, this was My Favorite.  Perhaps it was a misplaced loyalty.

On the Wednesday evening in question, we got to the restaurant about a quarter to six.  Usually at this time we found a relatively empty room, but this time it was packed.  So I told the waitress we were looking for a table for two, and waited outside.  It was a longish wait, but we felt it was worthwhile as long as we had a decent table.  And we did - the table for two by the table that we particularly love, so never mind the slightly numbed fingers and toes (you have to wait outside for your table).  We almost missed it, as the waitress looked as if she was going to take a couple of girls who had arrived well after us first, but we spoke up.

We were in for a good evening.  The menu had a seasonal item I'd been waiting for all year, and we discussed the possibility of a glass of red wine. And we waited.  And waited.  The wait seemed unusual, but there was only one waitress on that night, and a full house, so why complain?  It'd be all right in the long run.

After about twenty minutes, the waitress approached us.  Would she take our order?  Nope.  She informed us that we were going to have to move to the center table, as they needed our space for a party of nine who had made reservations.  


First of all, that center table is not pleasant.   It's near the door, which means draft, and it was a cold day out.  I'd dealt with a similar table in Caffe Reggio a few days earlier, and it doesn't make for a happy dining.  It also means that anyone entering the premises stands right on top of you, and anyone moving around will bump into you.  But this might have been acceptable if we hadn't already been kept waiting twenty minutes at the table by the window, without even a glass of water to pass the time.  Also, the two girls who'd came in after us had just been seated by the other table by the window.  Their order hadn't been taken yet, so they could easily be moved to the table of doom.  Before we could bring that to the waitress' attention, she proceeds to go over to their table and take their order.  Again, we'd still not had our order taken.

We decided enough was enough, and left, though Cathy did communicate her unhappiness to the waitress, who didn't try to make amends at all.  

This left us with empty stomach and a bad taste in our mouths.  Cathy will likely never, ever go back even if she's in town, and I'm not sure about myself.  We wondered, and hoped we were wrong, if our less than stellar treatment was due to a racial bias (the girls who came after us were both white and one of us is not).  It's not something we want to believe, though I've heard others make that claim in the past.  I always said it was in their heads, but who knows?

And why would they take reservations for a party of nine?  Seriously?

A few months ago, Tea and Sympathy started a Go Fund Me account, because despite being busy, they had trouble paying rents.  I understand the difficulty - so many businesses in the City, and particularly the Village, have gone under not because of a lack of customers, but because rents are astronomical.  I feared its demise, but now I'm feeling tepid about the whole situation.  Why should I feel for a place that doesn't act like it wants our business?  There's a big to-do about celebrity patronage, but we tiny unknown Britophiles are obviously expendable.  

I don't want Tea and Sympathy to close down, but I don't want to return to a place that is terribly lacking in its service.  Frankly, I can't afford it.  So, for now, we're on a break.  I'll have to find another cozy spot to bring my friends.  Suggestions are welcome.

Freddie Purrcury

When I envision an ideal living situation, it's usually in a cute cottage surrounded by a manageable garden and some wildflower space. The cottage has a baking-friendly kitchen,  is stuffed with books and cozy reading nooks (at least one window seat), and there's at least three cats in residence.

I have the books in my railroad apartment in Astoria,  plants that tend to die, and have had up to three cats at once in the past. I also have mild allergies and a budget. So I've been down to Zenobia for five years now.

It wasn't a bad arrangement. Zenobia is friendly (to me), and playful for her age.  I'm sure she would be fine with keeping it just the two of us.  But lately I was drawn to the idea of having another kitty, preferably a boy,  but not a kitten.  I'd also never had the chance to adopt a cat from a shelter. So I took to the internet, and found a local spot that didn't make you give blood in order to adopt.

There are always adoptable dogs and cats in shelters, but a match is not always easy to find.  For instance, on my first visit there were some bonded pairs, which basically means you have to adopt them together.  I think that's wonderful, but I'm not up to having three cats at the moment.  It was okay with Bubuck and Moofer back in the day, but that's because Zenobia was young and she'd already met them both.  I didn't want to overwhelm her (or my above-mentioned allergies and budget). 

I didn't find my match on my first visit, but I didn't give up.  On my second try, upon entering the cat room, the first kitty I spotted was not in one of the cages, but a little room near the kitten area.  As soon as I saw the big ginger lounging behind the glass, I asked about him.  The volunteer said 'that's Frederico', and I had to know more.  So she took me inside.

'Frederico' shared the room with two other kitties names Sylvester and Tweety.  Neither of them seemed interested in me, but Frederico approached straightaway.  And sparks flew. No, literally.  It was cold out, and I gave the poor guy a little shock as he went to sniff my finger.  But he was obviously social, and I fell in love.  The volunteer read his history: he was an owner surrender, which was all I knew about his previous life.  That and he had ingested dental floss a few years ago and had to have it surgically removed.  And he was seven years old.  That was a little older than I'd expected, but I figured he'd be much calmer than a kitten, and Zenobia would appreciate that.  He also had a slightly scrunched left ear, but there weren't any health issues related to that.   I wanted to hear his voice, but all he managed were the little rrrrp and mrrr sound effects, which probably sealed the deal.  Any cat who simultaneously reminded me of Cinnamon and Moofer was okay by me.

The adoption process takes time, so I had to return the next day.  I arrived at opening time with my carrying case, and after some consultation and paperwork, we were off!  I took him on the bus, which I thought would be an easy ride as it was midday.  I was wrong, but I was also impressed by how quiet he was.  Zenobia would have been in an uproar! (not that I'm comparing...)

I'd hoped to get him into the front rooms without any fuss, and keep the two cats separated for a few days, but before I could take my coat off, Zenobia was at the carrying case sniffing, then hissing, then wheezing dramatically. I spirited him off to the front rooms, shut the doors, and let him sniff around. 

The first day and night I had a quiet boy who hid under the bed and had a normal appetite, and was cuddly when I came to visit him.  I still spent as much time as possible with Zenobia, as I wanted her to feel like I hadn't forgotten her in favor of a younger model. I was starting to regret my new name for him: Freddie Purrcury.  I thought it would be an easy change from Frederico, and a chance to finally name someone after my favorite singer.  With the ear and the ginger fur he could have been Vincent Van Gogh, but that didn't roll off my tongue.

By the second day Freddie had found his voice. And he used it!  He was no longer satisfied with two rooms (bigger than quite a few New York apartments, but after all, his namesake had lived in a mansion in Kensington.  Now, I like the sound of little kitty mews, and the occasional howl, but I also suffer from a mild but nagging case of misophonia, and persistent yowling and door scratching was interrupting my beauty sleep.  So I did what has always worked when faced (or eared?) with a snoring roommate: kept the TV on full blast.  It's loud, but it's my choice, and I was able to rest somewhat.

After a couple of days, I brought the kitties together.  Zenobia's first response was a repeat performance of wheeze-fest.  Then the hissing commenced.  This was not a love match.  In fact, it was a crisis.  She stopped eating for a couple of days, lost weight, and found herself back at the vet.  She will be okay (for now), but I reminded her she was a century too late to protest for women's votes, and got her all her favorite canned food.  And I let her tell me where she wants to eat.  Yes, she's spoiled, but she's earned it - and at last she has the evil sound effects to complement her resting death glare.  

As soon as Freddie had a chance to explore the whole apartment, I learned that he truly is a combination of many of the boy cats I've known:  he has the high jump of Cinnamon (and the sudden poofy tail), the little grunts and love bites of Moofer, the ability to find and tear through any package of cat food, cat nip, or treats that is not put away under lock and key, like Moofer and Bubuck, and the weird face licking of Chubby (my fur "nephew" of old).  Maybe girl cats do these thing too, but not the ones I've known.  Zenobia scratches furniture (and Freddie scratches the furniture Zenobia doesn't bother with, like my swivel chairs), but she's never been terribly curious about every space in existence.  She's not even a window cat.  Freddie is, which I wouldn't mind, except he nearly ended the household by turning one of the stove knobs on his way to a kitchen window.  It's a good thing I have a sensitive nose!  So I'm on my toes.

Freddie has been part of the family for nearly a month now. Aside from learning to deal with his active nature  and morning caterwauling, and Zenobia's demonic noises (they get more and more creative), I've loved having another kitty at home.  Now I just need the cottage.

The closest she'll get to him

Get off the counter!!!!

Long boy