Billion Dollar Maybe

I am sitting by the front windows at a table adorned with a small vase of fresh-cut daisies and miniature yellow roses, clacking away at my laptop while sipping from a large mocha espresso. It is mid-morning, well after the breakfast rush and still more than an hour away from the onset of the lunch crowd, yet there has been no scarcity of customers. An ebullient woman dressed as a skeleton and a cocky guy in the garb of a Mardi Gras king are competing for the approval of the audience as Let’s Make A Deal unfolds on a flat-screen display. No one pays any attention to the spectacle, though, its raucous proceedings muffled by the general din of conversation and an industrious, cheery staff.

The dining area is a collage of browns, beiges and oranges, offset with bold murals of modern art featuring swaths of black and white, red and yellow, and a high-contrast, monochromatic portrait of a young woman of ambiguous expression staring upward as her negatively silhouetted hand cradles a photorealistic hamburger. Behind the counter is an even more aggressive design scheme: yard-long, rectangular backsplash panels in adjoining fields of midnight black and fire engine red. A light wood grain laminate dominates not only the floor but the walls as well. Unobtrusive lighting recessed within acoustical ceiling tile illuminates a variety of seating options, from a long, tall, wooden table flanked by a dual row of upholstered bar stools to a series of white fiberglass tables adjacent to a long, cushioned bench that runs along the front of the room. It’s a quirky mix of variety and uniformity, as though an interior decorator were given complete artistic freedom within severely defined constraints. Read More

Two Chairs, No Waiting

My wife and I bought our house nearly twenty years ago. It’s a small two-story built by an outfit that kept prices affordable by using the cheapest materials allowed by housing codes. We’ve made some significant quality upgrades over the last two decades, installing a durable roof, buying a better furnace, replacing every window and door, and encasing our home in vinyl siding. Incredibly, however, we are still using the original, economy-grade water heater. Aware that our basement houses an aquatic time bomb that could blow at any time, perhaps leaving us without hot water on an arctic January morning, we decided to be proactive and solicit some replacement estimates.

“Now, I’m guessin’ here,” boomed a garrulous contractor as he surveyed our basement, “that you guys have two and a half bathrooms?”

Guess again. My wife and I traded smiles provoked by the perverse joy that comes with puncturing false assumptions. “One,” I corrected him. He was clearly taken aback by this information, as though we had revealed that we do all of our cooking over a boiling cauldron in the fireplace. Yet we spoke the truth. It is the secret shame of modern suburbia. You can’t tell just by driving through the neighborhood, but there exists here and there the odd house that has…[insert dramatic sting here]…only one toilet.

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