Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Coventry, RI: Denny's

Italian Chicken Melt - 0 stars
about $7 with fries
June 7, 2005

In some ways, it was a prototypical sales call. I was working on a demo in the hotel, trapped in a huge but strangely desolate strip mall complex: a Hampton Inn, a Wendy's, a Denny's, a gas station, a Home Depot, and vast expanses of nothing more typical of Arizona than of Rhode Island - no forests, no farmland, no towns, just nothing. The first day's 7-hour demo had gone very well, but instead of feeling happy I just felt exhausted at the prospect of preparing for the next day's 7-hour demo.

I actually have a soft spot for Denny's, although I'm not sure why. I think it's because of the menus - they were one of the first chains to realize that it doesn't matter how bad the food is, as long as you have big juicy photos of the food in your menus. Anyway, the Italian Chicken Melt seemed safe enough - essentially a chicken parm sandwich, as we call it back home in Massachusetts. The chicken was fine, the tomato sauce was acceptable in a kind of canned and fruity way, and I was smart enough to order it without lettuce (lettuce on a breaded chicken breast covered with tomato sauce and cheese?), but the cheese was just ... weird. It was thinly sliced in perfect triangles, except it had a flavor I could not place, as if someone were trying to make mozzarella cheese who had never eaten mozzarella cheese, based on a verbal description by someone who didn't really like mozzarella cheese. It was one of those things where I would try to isolate the cheese so that I could figure out what that flavor was, but all I could determine was that I didn't like it.

It was not a prototypical sales call because I almost broke down crying during lunch (grilled cheese and tomato, if you must know) while talking to my wife because my dog had vomited again that morning after vomiting the night before. But he made it through that week, and the week after that, and now he seems to be largely recovered from his pancreatitis. He is ravenously hungry, and he wakes us up early in the morning asking to be fed (no doubt a by-product of our feeding him every two hours during the night while he was sick), and he barks angrily at strangers, and he goes for walks, though not quite as long as before. According to the official diagnosis he still has pancreatic cancer, which means he has only a few months left to live, but it seems like at least a few of them will be happy.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Windsor Locks, CT: Fresh City

Chicken Fajita Wrap - 1 star

Yes, it's been a while since I've written about a chicken sandwich. I actually eat fewer than one might think. You see, I don't particularly like chicken sandwiches - they're my fallback when I'm on the road in places that don't have very good food (that would be most places). But recently I've been spending most of my time at home or in California, where there are plenty of better things to eat. I ate the chicken fajita wrap my last time flying out of Bradley, on the way to the ACORD/LOMA conference in Orlando on May 22. It was better than my previous Fresh City experience, so it got a star. There's your review.

My dog, however, may never have chicken again. He is very sick.

Obviously, this is very sad and difficult to deal with, particularly for someone whose life has really had a minimum of hardship, emotional or otherwise. Strangely enough, knowing that he is likely to die soon is not the hardest part of it.

I think the saddest thing is thinking of all the things he will never do again. You see, Dauber really loves chicken. If you hold a piece of chicken in front of him, he will stare at it like a hawk focused on its prey, and he will begin to quiver with excitement. And right now, we just try to feed him a tablespoon of softened baked potato at a time, and we're happy if he doesn't throw it up. Then there are salmon, beef, duck, eggs, and all the other things he loves. Especially cantaloupe. If you had a bowl of cantaloupe, ate it, and took away the bowl, he would still sniff the air frantically looking for the cantaloupe.

And running. Dauber may never run again. He can walk, and occasionally he will trot for a few yards. But he may never thunder across the ground with that bounding gallop I remember, chasing after squirrels, his mortal enemy. When we came home in the evening, if he hadn't walked enough during the day, he would sprint back and forth between us at top speed, simply happy to be running.

But he may eat chicken and run and chase squirrels again. You see, we just don't know. And that makes it hard, too. Last week, when it seemed like he might not even stand again, he had an acute case of pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). Thanks to great medical care, the inflammation has come down considerably, and he has improved greatly; but now that the inflammation is down, it's clear that he has a tumor in his pancreas. So he may return to his old self for a few weeks or months before the tumor grows out of control; or this may be as good as it will ever get, and he may never eat anything better than watery baked potato. And it's hard to plan a trip, even for two days, when you know you may be losing two days of your dog's last week of life.

I also think about all the things he will never get to do. He'll never see the farm that we had planned, with three chickens, two pygmy goats, and perhaps a couple of llamas. He'll never get to ride in the car we talked about buying for him, so he would have a better view outside. He'll never see our children (and we can throw out the CD we got to prepare him for the sounds of a baby in the house).

When you start a company, no matter how hard you try not to think of it, people ask you what you will do if the company is successful and you make a lot of money. I always said I would stay home and play with Dauber. I hoped I could make up for all the days and weeks I spent away from home.

Well, I ran out of time.