The Whatever BBQ.

One of the local bloggers refers to the Free Press’ reader comments as the Klavern, and one look at it after a story touching on race — as approximately 75 percent of all stories in Detroit do, and a little imagination can bring the other 25 percent under the umbrella — shows why that’s true:

I see it all now. A new amusement park right on the riverfront.
A real life amusement park. You’ll take part in muggings, and car jackings. See what it’s like to live in a crackhouse neighborhood. Try your skills as either a streetwalker or a crack dealer. Dress up like a clown and serve on the city council.
for the kids there is the “Who’s your daddy” ride

Ha ha. This was attached to a story on the Cobo expansion, which is, of course, about race.

This is one of the things we’ve discussed about, whether we’re going to allow anonymous comments, and we’ve decided we’d rather have fewer with real names attached than the sort of sewage allowing anonymity would encourage.

Earlier this week, a former editor at the Washington Post’s website defended the anonymous variety, arguing they served as an unpleasant but necessary reminder of a particular segment of the audience. This was picked up by Romenesko, where all important issues of journalism are debated, and it was there that a Gannett reporter replied with his own experience. Hello, future of journalism:

Like other Gannett papers, the Register has turned its newsroom into an “Information Center,” in part by publishing rumors, half-truths and outright lies submitted by anonymous folks with screen names like “Hugh G. Rekshon.” Not long ago, we had a reader who decided to publish on our site the juvenile court record of a young woman, complete with references to drug testing, psychological exams and the girl’s one-time status as a juvenile ward of the state. We routinely publish comments questioning the virtue of female criminal defendants and the citizenship of anyone who seems to have a Hispanic surname. We call that “community conversation.” Others see it as a public stoning, hosted by a newspaper that grants all of the attackers complete anonymity.

And like other Gannett papers, the Register is cutting back on content produced by trained, professional journalists while encouraging community members to submit photos, columns and blogs. A few of our community bloggers have used this forum to write about the details of their drug use and their sexual activities. Most of our contributors choose their topics more carefully, but again, they’re not professionals. Not everyone who can type is a reporter. Not everyone with a cell-phone camera is a photographer. But in the Information Center, we’re all part of a homogenized team of “content providers” — some of whom, not coincidentally, work for free. A well-researched Register news article is published on the same Web page as a reader’s step-by-step instructions as to how a local woman under a psychiatrist’s care should commit suicide using carbon monoxide.

That’s the Des Moines Register, by the way, one of those papers that existed for years as proof that Iowa was a state that valued education, that far from being a collection of farmers and cornfields, could produce a paper that was the equal of any in the country. Won several Pulitzers. I read it when I was in Iowa covering the floods of 1993. They ran exhaustive coverage, much of it presented in Spanish as well. And now it’s the home of Hugh G. Rekshon.

I don’t know why I’m talking about this today. It is Good Friday. Death and execution is topic one today. Maybe that’s why.

So, friends, how are you today? I’m fabulous. I spent most of yesterday away from my computer, and recommend it highly. It turns out there are people out there with whom you can have these things called “conversations,” which don’t involve a keyboard. You can accompany them to restaurants and eat actual food, actual being the opposite of everyone’s favorite adjective these days, “virtual.” We went to B.D.’s Mongolian Barbeque, a place I’d not visited before this year. How had I missed it, this place that McDonald’s-izes the hibachi table? The last I checked, the Mongolians were a nation of proud horsemen who once conquered the world and today eat a lot of yogurt. The fast-casual joint that bears its name invites you to gather a large bowl of raw meat and vegetables, complemented by sauces that range from Fajita Pepper to Thai peanut. You present this mess to a cook who makes snappy banter while he shoves it around on the grill for a few minutes, then take it back to your table, where you’ve been given a bowl of rice. Also, a small tortilla warmer.

“What’s in there?” I asked the waitress.

“Tortillas,” she said. Oh.

Anyway, against all expectations, this mess is still delicious. I cleaned my plate and wiped it with a tortilla. God bless the melting pot.

And God bless Wikipedia, which notes the first American restaurant chain to open in Ulan Bator was? B.D.’s Mongolian Barbeque! The entry goes on to note: “…neither the ingredients nor the cooking method has anything in common with Mongolian cuisine.” Good to know.

Somewhere in the world is an American restaurant that serves live eels.

OK. So I’m off to buy white eggs, asparagus and maybe a beef tenderloin. We’re staying in for Easter, making it a feast for three. So no ham for us — we’re going with the good stuff.

Happy weekends to all.

Posted at 11:10 am in Media, Popculch, Same ol' same ol' |

33 responses to “The Whatever BBQ.”

  1. brian stouder said on April 10, 2009 at 11:23 am

    And a happy Easter to you and yours! We’re off to Grandma’s for the weekend, and the young folks are chomping at the bit. Speaking of ‘chomping’ – an Ossian ham is in our immediate future – so we’ll have an extra serving for you (and any other ham apostates)

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  2. Sue said on April 10, 2009 at 11:27 am

    The Chicago Tribune’s website allows comments on its articles and they are infested with trolls. Before I stopped reading the comments altogether, I had a little game where I would try to guess how many comments it would take before a racist, sexist or blaming-the-victim comment appeared. It was never more than five comments in, and usually about the second comment. And those comments usually made up half or more than half of the comments. So, no point in reading them.
    And re yesterday’s comments: Michael G – yeah, like that. Hope it’s better for you now.

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  3. LA Mary said on April 10, 2009 at 11:28 am

    We’re staying home doing dinner this year too. I’m feeling very thrifty so we’re probably going to have a nice roasted chicken and asparagus and I’m in the mood for a simple yellow cake with perfect chocolate frosting. I can see it in my head. Not layers, just a nice oblong cake, very yellow and with the perfect crumb texture.
    You can tell I had a boring healthy breakfast, can’t you.

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  4. brian stouder said on April 10, 2009 at 11:33 am

    Mary – these sensual phrases – “a simple yellow cake with perfect chocolate frosting” and “Not layers, just a nice oblong cake, very yellow and with the perfect crumb texture.” have me thinking about Nigella now!

    (you can tell I’m just a dog!)

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  5. paddyo' said on April 10, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Ahh, Mongolian barbecue! There’s a joint that’s been in downtown Denver forever, and we’d some days walk down the 16th Street Mall to get a bowl —
    The cook worked all that meat, veggies, spices, sauce, etc., around on an enormous round grill that looked like the underside of a giant pot or pan. He used a couple of 3-foot-long chopsticks (choplogs? chopbeams? anyway …) to push it back and forth, finally pinching it all into a bowl. Sort of the Benihana’s of Mongolian food (or as you say, maybe fake Mongolian food).

    When the paper where I started out, Gannett’s Reno Gazette-Journal, went local-local-Information-Center-do-your-own-news a couple of years ago, it ran a(n) (in)famous news item that consisted of a snapshot of half a dozen shopping carts piled up-over-sideways in the corner of a discount store parking lot.
    The cutline told about how only three of the carts belonged to that store, while the rest were from elsewhere — grocery store, another variety store, etc.
    That was it. Absolutely straight-faced. Serious journalism, apparently.
    I agree about the knuckle-dragging commenters. The “quality” of the discourse rises remarkably when you have to attach at least some semblance of a name to what you say.

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  6. moe99 said on April 10, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    Paddy O’: what would be a halfway point between Denver and Seattle? I have a case of Amber liqueur (a true drink of the gods no longer sold in the US by the Macallen distillery in Scotland) that I have to deliver to a friend and Denver resident and there is no way to do it legally (thanks Prohibition holdovers!) other than drive it. So I thought perhaps we could meet halfway but can’t figure out what that would be.

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  7. Peter said on April 10, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    Moe 99: I perhaps speak for many NN readers in saying that you can drop those bottles off at my place and I’ll take care of them.

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  8. Connie said on April 10, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    Our local Mongolian Barbecue guys put on a great show with those giant sticks.

    One of the Lettuce Entertain You restaurant chains in the Chicago area is Big Bowl, a great favorite of ours. They also have a “pick your own ingredients” bar for stir fry. They describe their menu as Asian Fusion. MMmmm, peanut noodles.

    My daughter went to German language Good Friday services this a.m. in Indy. Her choice was go with her German professor or do a homework assignment. She says she was thankful for the English translation handout of the service including the message.

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  9. Connie said on April 10, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    The comment forums in our local newspaper are filled with racism and general nastiness. As a public official I get my share, and have had to learn to bite my tongue. How dare our local library spend my tax dollars on books in Spanish for the use of all those illegals!

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  10. Rana said on April 10, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    It’s interesting, this question of comments on newspaper sites, because the traditional methods of handling obnoxious commenters on blogs – banning, moderating, disemvoweling – are seen as problematic on the grounds of “censorship.”

    Personally, I have issues with the “real name only” approach, for the simple reasons (a) it doesn’t work and (b) it confuses anonymity with pseudonymity. “Rana” is not my real name, but it has weight on the internet, and I have a reputation to uphold. It links to my blog and my email, and that’s about as “real” as I get online. For commenting purposes, it is as good as the name that appears on my driver’s license.

    “Real” name requirements are easily by-passed; if I posted as Johanna Green, who is to say that this is a real name, or one I just made up? I could just as easily be Faith McClurken or Tommy Smoot, with a hastily acquired yahoo or g-mail account to go along.

    I therefore think that the fear of censorship is a red herring – there is this assumption that journalistic objectivity demands letting every yahoo who steps up to the mike have his or her say. Why?

    Really, why? For print publications, as I understand it (and I know this group will correct me if I’m wrong), it’s not as if every random letter to the editor will be published. Nor is it even as if every thoughtful one will. (I remember the Union-Tribune being very clear about its method of handling letters to the editor; it would publish them in the proportion of responses – so if there were 80 for an issue, and 20 against, it would publish 4 from the pro side and 1 from the con.)

    Granted it’s more work for the managers of the site, but faced with the alternative?

    So develop a clear comment-handling policy, give it a permanent page somewhere on the site, and stick to it.

    (The other approach I’ve seen work, but again it’s time intensive, is for the columnist to be an active participant in the comments threads, responding to questions and remarks with the rest of them. There are still drive-bys to clean up, but the conversation that results is a lot better than what happens in the unattended, unmoderated threads.)

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  11. Bob Johnson said on April 10, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    You are aware of the definition of Klavern…aren’t you?

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  12. paddyo' said on April 10, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    Well, Moe, my perusal of the map suggests maybe Livingston, MT, or Pocatello, ID, depending on your preferred route. I-90/I-25’s more scenic and more direct, so I’d go the Montana route…

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  13. Jason T. said on April 10, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    Nance, I’m struggling with this as I try to turn a personal website into a community news source.

    I want people to write for it who can do actual reporting, but the only business model that I can foresee will pay them chicken-feed.

    So I don’t know how I’m going to guarantee good quality stories unless the writers I recruit are insanely dedicated or (like me) just insane.

    As for the comments — I moderate every one of ’em, and I log IP addresses. Commenters may withhold their names, but I know who they are. Libel and slander aren’t tolerated, and if someone gets of line, the hammer comes down.

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  14. paddyo' said on April 10, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    Rana —
    I always assumed (and I recall reading some scuttlebutt about it here and there) that newspapers in particular practice this don’t-ask/don’t-tell hands-off policy with not only commenters (except the really obscene ones, maybe) but also the contributors to their open-to-all-comers “news” pages. I seem to recall, vaguely, that the supposed legal grounds were that if they didn’t regulate or “edit” stuff, they couldn’t be responsible for it.
    I may be wrong about that, but I’ve heard it discussed a number of times. Anybody have a better grip on this one?
    I also remember hearing it suggested that this was a legal rationale for allowing actual paid staff to publish/upload stuff immediately to a paper’s Website, sans editing — particularly among Gannett community newspapers’ packs of “backpack journalists” who were assigned to stay OUT of the newsroom and file/text/upload/etc. from the front seat of their cars, ever-circling neighborhoods in search of community news … plausible deniability, maybe?

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  15. Jason T. said on April 10, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    I should add that — imho — the rules of journalism don’t change when you go from pixels to paper.

    Newspapers are destroying what’s left of their credibility by opening the doors wide to nuts, racists, flakes, cranks and shills.

    It’s symptomatic, unfortunately, of the ham-handed way that most large news organizations have treated the Internet.

    They ignored it for a long time; now, much too late, they’re embracing the worst aspects of being online (like anonymous trolls and half-wits) while ignoring the best features (such as the ability to provide embedded links and rich content).

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  16. jcburns said on April 10, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    I got this email today from something called ‘Marketing Daily’:

    If you want to market to Gen Y, then create profiles on social networks that its members are already participating with and engage them directly. These social networks can include the leading sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, as well as niche sites and video-sharing sites like YouTube.

    Here are some tips to engage members of Gen Y:

    • Listen to them carefully and analyze their behavior.
    • Ask them how they want to be contacted before sending out a mass mailing or poking them on Facebook.
    • Be creative with your marketing because that’s the only way you will attract them to your product or company.
    • Reward them with incentives and they’ll come knocking on your door because they were raised to feel special by their parents.
    • Develop content they can share because they are already active online and have their own channels of distribution.
    • Recruit them to help you with your marketing to other Gen Yers.

    Companies and marketers that can understand this generation will see enormous opportunities now and in the future.

    Gen Y is bound to take over the entire workforce, so your best bet is to learn how it operates, tap its expertise and station yourself where it is already “hanging out.”

    Raised to feel special…!? Yeesh, oh, whatever. Once again, where, oh where is my extra-large polo mallet of common sense?

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  17. alex said on April 10, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    Eric Zorn suspended comments on his Trib blog for a while, then reinstated them with some new ground rules, although the crazies still seem to be going at it with as much fervor as before.

    paddyo’, I’m not so sure the rationale that not editing content shields you from liability. I know of one local batshit blogger who was serving up local sex offenders and all but inciting his readers to commit mob violence against them. His web host, fearing liability for his incendiary content, dropped him. (He’s still at it, but now hosts his own site.)

    What I’ve noticed, at least at one of our local papers, is that its blog and local columns are about the same content-wise as any incoherent angry jackass ravings you’ll see in an anonymous followup post, so it all evens out. (I don’t think anyone takes the paper’s news content seriously enough anymore to comment on it. Besides, there’s really not much there anymore to criticize.)

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  18. Rana said on April 10, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    Raised to feel special…!? Yeesh, oh, whatever.

    You’d be surprised – at least when we’re talking middle-class kids. I’ve been teaching at the college level for about 15+ years now, and there’s a definite shift in how students relate to authority, praise, negative feedback, etc. It’s not like young adults face a shortage of that attitude anyway, but it is a real issue, weird though that may seem.

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  19. Connie said on April 10, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    ALex, might that batshit blogger be angry white boy?

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  20. joodyb said on April 10, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    the Strib’s comments threads are so full of bile hardly anyone looks at them anymore. once in awhile someone will tip me to one of the more unintentionally comical ones on one of mark’s stories, and then i am sorry to get caught reading further. i’ve not seen a single one that doesn’t deteriorate into a pissing match between commenters or a mere string of societal epithets. it’s just a black hole for misanthropes to shout into, if you think about it.

    at our paper, we have a ‘play nice’ disclaimer atop our comment field, which i think works something on the order of this site (we’re watching really we are so behave or you’re out), but st. paul has a completely different reader vibe than mpls. west metro readers have never known what they want their paper to be and will bitch to high heaven when it’s gone. total sense of entitlement.

    jc, i believe existing academic research has verified that ‘raised to feel special’ attribute.

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  21. whitebeard said on April 10, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    Because my auto columns have always welcomed questions and comments from readers since the 1970s I have self-censored what appears in the newspapers, so the “batshit bloggers” do not see publication unless they are very creative.
    Although I will grant you, e-mails are much easier to read than brown crayon (I am being kind and assume it was brown crayon) scrawled on pieces of paper towel proclaiming me to be a hairy bastard, because my column photo showed a beard and flowing long hair.
    I will read the comments on stories sometimes, resisting the temptation to throw a shoe at the screen when the crazies write racist and political rants and repeatedly vow to never read the comments again and constantly break my vow.
    Even as a night city editor in Montreal, I would talk with any callers, even when there was a full moon, because I love talking, period.
    But I would welcome a “be nice” credo atop the comments section and appropriate steps to enforce that stipulation.

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  22. coozledad said on April 10, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    Maybe you guys could fan out and lend literacy to local papers.
    I’m just kidding. They don’t know what to do with money.

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  23. Dexter said on April 10, 2009 at 9:02 pm

    The first time I encountered a place where you pick out vegetables and meats and hand them over to be grilled was at bd’s Mongolian Grill, Main & Washington, Ann Arbor. I have only been there five times, but it was great each visit.
    Now we have “Asian Grille” in Defiance, Ohio…same thing, but they don’t use huge sticks, they used spatulas when I was there a few times.

    My wife loves the tourist-traps called Cracker Barrel. We went to the one next to I-69 in Auburn, Indiana tonight. It sucked. My okra tasted like breaded NOTHING. My pork barbeque was so plain a hot dog would be gourmet food compared to that slop. My baked apples were coated in so much thick pure-sugar sauce they were inedible. Blecchh! My wife had to send her order back…it was not close to what she ordered. And the whole damn place reeked of tobacco smoke. That is because I am a residing Buckeye and there is no smoking in Ohio restaurants.

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  24. Jen said on April 10, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    At the newspaper company where I work, all comments must be approved by a moderator (in fact, I’ve done some moderating of comments myself when our online guy was on vacation). We don’t allow off-topic comments, spam, rants or facts we can’t prove. I’m really not sure of the legalities, but I know that our company’s lawyer has been consulted many times on touchy comments.

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  25. basset said on April 10, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    The world headquarters of Cracker Barrel is in Lebanon, Tennessee, on the eastern fringe of the Nashville metro… the food is indeed nothing special, excepting the monster breakfasts, but their in-house record label has put out some interesting stuff for sale in the stores. Any company that’d reissue the legendary Rounder 0044 can’t be all bad… if I remember right, the Cracker Barrel version even had a couple of bonus tracks.

    (now we’ll wait to see which of the two possible ways this could go… either someone will pick up on the 0044 reference or, more likely, it’ll take the path of most Basset posts and plop straight into oblivion, cold in the gutter and largely ignored…)

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  26. Kirk said on April 10, 2009 at 10:09 pm

    But they probably won’t be reissuing any Motown classics. They had a little problem with ignoring nonwhite customers a few years back, and got their butt singed.

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  27. basset said on April 10, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    There was that… I thought about connecting it back to the “klavern” reference & figured naaah, too easy.

    at least I got a response, though…

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  28. beb said on April 10, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    Kirk, which is one reason I have never eaten at a Cracker Barrel, and never will. The first Mongolian BBQ for me was years ago in Atlanta when I was visiting some friends. Curiously, before reading NN.C today the family decided to eat at BD’s Mongolian – probably the same one Nancy went to — in Roseville. It is a fun place to eat.

    When I first started reading blogs I read a lot of the comments but eventually stopped because the comments were largely pretty predictable. Here, I read the comments all the time because the people here are an interesting, diverse group.

    I don’t know what to say about the crazies that infest newspaper blog comments. Requiring registration to post comments might help, so does requring moderation for first time posters. Of course both require someone to actually read these comments which I suppose is an expense most newspapers don’t want to incur.

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  29. Gasman said on April 11, 2009 at 12:37 am

    I think your point distinguishing between pseudonyms and aliases is important. Our local Santa Fe New Mexican comment page is nothing more than a forum for pathetically disaffected trolls that want to hurl invective from underneath the cloak of anonymity. What is the point of such a venue? There are damn few ideas that emerge on such sites. It is more akin to “The Lord of the Flies” than a forum designed for reasoned debate.

    After a few unpleasant web interactions with vile bigots and/or the insane, I’ve generally refrain from using my own name, but am consistent with my pseudonym for the same reasons that Rana cites. Mine is actually not very creative; it is a nickname I’ve had for decades. GAS also happens to be my initials. If I were in the witness protection program, I’d have been outed long ago. I am always curious when some, even a few regulars here, feel the need to hide behind aliases or multiple noms de plume. (These tend to feel more like noms de guerre.) I tend to not take anybody seriously that isn’t willing to associate themselves with their own comments. I wouldn’t expect anyone to take me seriously if wasn’t willing to own my own words.

    On a totally unrelated note: the ABC 20/20 special, “If I Only Had a Gun” was exceptionally thought provoking. It was not an attack on the second amendment in any way, shape, or form. It was, however, a sober and rational discussion of many of the myths, urban legends, and plain old hoary chestnuts that Americans have concerning guns. As the wingnuts are arming themselves at a record pace, this is something that should concern us all. Scared gun owners are not likely to be responsible gun owners.

    I’m not sure if it is available via the web. It would be worth searching out.

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  30. Dexter said on April 11, 2009 at 2:59 am

    And so we finally find out the whole story on what happened to Chicago columnist and author Bill Granger, nine years ago….

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  31. Christy said on April 11, 2009 at 10:26 am

    The racial discrimination at Cracker Barrel is an excellent reason not to go there. Also there’s the fact that a decade ago, they asked their employees whether or not they were gay, and fired them if they said yes. Because it didn’t promote the right kind of image, they said. I’m not a highly political person, but they clearly don’t need my business

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  32. whitebeard said on April 12, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    The Bill Granger story moistened my eyes (men don’t cry), Dexter, because I also liked the November Man and looked for more books. He built his character so well you thought you could see him at the next restaurant table, ahead of you in the supermarket checkout lane and chatting with someone across the street.
    When I had my heart attack (heartbeat down to 30 beats a minutes) in 2006, I didn’t have a stroke attached to it so I still write as badly as ever.
    What I have is a diminished ability to walk, this from somebody who walked 38 miles overnight years ago on a scenic Southern Ontario highway that not only did not tolerate hitchhikers but seemed shunned by cars (and trucks) as well.
    Granger, a prisoner in his mind, but still able to joke about rewatching Seinfeld again and again.

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  33. Dorothy said on April 13, 2009 at 8:52 am

    I was away this weekend so I didn’t read this until just this morning. Mongolian BBQ is a favorite of our son’s. We’ve been to the one in downtown Columbus, and the one at Easton. When he moved out of his summer rental into his fall rental at the beginning of his Junior year, several of his buddies pitched in to help, so we treated them all to dinner at the BBQ. We sure got our money’s worth for that meal! I think they were sorry to see us come in with five strapping college guys with bulging eyes and empty bellies.

    And count us among the Cracker Barrel haters. Tried it maybe twice and each time the meal was awful, the service sucked and I just plain hated the whole experience!

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