Fresh Eyes

by Jules Older

When you live in a place, after awhile, you lose your fresh eyes.

© Jules Older. 25 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CAIt doesn't mean you're dumb or insensitive or unaware of your surroundings. Unless you work hard to correct it, sure as fog, sooner or later you're gonna misplace your awareness of what you see and smell, hear and taste on your way to work or walking home from school or going out for the Sunday paper.

Sometimes it’s actually a relief. As one travel-writer friend sighed about her blissful oblivion to her hometown surroundings, “Ah, the luxury of not seeing!”

But, ah the pleasures of seeing through fresh eyes. Everything is new, everything is fascinating. Every pungent smell from a Chinese grocery, every touch of salt spray on a beach, every clang of a cable-car bell and visual surprise of a public wall mural — they all capture your attention, alert you to what makes your new home different from the old place.

My old place is rural Vermont. More, it’s the coldest, snowiest, most isolated part of Vermont, the northern end of the three northern counties known collectively as the Northeast Kingdom. That’s where I've lived since 1986, that’s where I was a justice of the peace, that’s where I grew garlic and basil and tomatoes. Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom: where I've shoveled snow off the roof and cowshit out of the barn. The old place.

The new place is San Francisco. Yeah, I just moved here.

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AAA and Mobil have their tastes, I have mine.

by Jules Older

There’s something to be said for stating boldly, baldly and in print the bases upon which a reviewer writes a review. After all, reviewing is personal, even when disguised as objective. Resorts lose their AAA stars and Mobil diamonds for things I find totally insignificant, like still using brass, not plastic keys; or even things I find laudable, like the absence of a noisy ice machine on every floor.

Jules' RulesWell, AAA and Mobil have their tastes, I have mine.

Here are mine.

A restaurant or inn loses a full point if:

Arugula appears on the menu. Knock off another point if the menu boasts “wilted arugula.” Or wilted almost-anything-else.

Raspberries are served in any course except dessert or palate-clearing sorbet. Raspberry vinaigrette counts the same as whole fruit.

Fish (almost always trout) is served coated in pistachio. These first three points are not meant to discourage creative chefs; they’re intended to penalize trendy chefs who follow any food fashion, no matter how ephemeral or awful-tasting.

Vegetables are treated as a throwaway item. Overcooked beans, combined carrots and peas, soggy zucchini—each counts as a point against.

A rural New England restaurant offering only zucchini in the month of August loses an additional point.

Patrons are expected to use a single fork for salad, main course and dessert.

Everyone in the dining room is whispering. My wife the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant calls this “a WASP restaurant.” No, a meal should not sound like a rock concert, but it needn’t sound like a funeral either.

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