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Please Pass [Cough! Cough!] the Butter, Dear?

A disquisition on eating, automobiles and rare aquatic creatures.

It was a couple of years ago this happened.  My wife and i were having a quiet lunch outside at the back of the Peddlar's Daughter.  It was a lovely day in late Spring.  Or, was it early Summer.  No matter, the day was just fine, and the venue just fine, too.

Why, you are entitled to ask, did we choose to eat our lunch way back there away from the madding crowd?  The question provides its own answer.  I have sat at table in front of Martha's Exchange on lovely evenings, and tried to carry on a conversation.  One gets distracted among the rumble of cars and trucks, the roar of Harleys and the sight of their middle-aged riders' unruly mullets, floppy tattooed arms bared to the shoulder under their leather-vested colors.  And, that's just the women bikers.  It is a problem to carry on a conversation above the roar.  It is worse, though, eating while wondering what delicious coating of petro-chemicals was softly descending onto my crusted salmon.

Lest you think I have an animus against Martha's, please let me put you at your ease.  I do like the place very much, and especially enjoy their craft beers.  We need Martha's.  We need The Peddlar's, too, and all the other downtown venues.  But, you know, every time I drive in either direction on Main Street during the summer I feel two things.  I feel sorry for the folks outside trying to have a nice meal  in all of those nice places that line those few blocks, and I feel guilty about being there in my car among all the other vehicles spitting noxious gases, making indecent noises.  And, I think, there must be something we can do to make this a more congenial place.  After all, cars don't vote.

That is why we chose the back of The Peddlar's over the front where we could "be seen" and admired as we believe we should be.

I know that the folks down at City Hall have ordered up and darn near completed a bit of a makeover for that part of Main Street near Peddlar's Daughter.  I happen to think they did a nice job.  The six lights give the bridge there a kind of 19th century retro look.  The granite posts, while they won't prevent a terrorist in a bomb filled pick-up from crashing into the bridge and ruining river traffic for months, do remind me of hitching posts.  I see them and say, "You know, a horse drawn carriage would look good tied up along here."  And, I day dream, imagining a scene from a Sherlock Holmes film.

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My wife and I escaped for a week long cruise up the Rhine a few weeks ago.  We stopped along the way in several old towns and cities.  I remember one sight among many pleasant ones.  In every one of these places, these old towns vehicular traffic is banned, more or less, from the center.  Town centers, town squares, are flooded with people.  Even in November, by God, the squares are full of restaurants and cafes with tables in front of them playing host to substantial numbers of customers enjoying coffee and other lovely things.  Alongside the cafes, and in between, shops carry on a brisk business.  Those places are people magnets, especially now, when they fill up with outdoor Christmas Markets; as I imagine they do regularly on other occasions throught the year.

The sight we saw?  That was in Cologne in the central square before the huge hundreds of years old cathedral.  There in the middle of the place, crowds of people flowing by it, was a Mercedes limousine, brand new, black and shiny; a vehicle of power and authority.  Inside of it was the driver... trapped.  He was trying to get off the square and could not move.  How he had gotten on was a mystery to me.  How he would get off was an even greater one.

Why not here as well as in Cologne?

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After we left our delightfully serene lunch in the back of The Peddlar's Daughter that day, we strolled out along the walk and began to cross the bridge.  There were two couples, tourists obviously, taking pictures of each other on the bridge facing toward the old power station that is now Margarita's.  Strolling by I asked one of the couples had they seen any of the "fresh water sharks" which inhabit the river.  "Sharks," they said questioningly.  I nodded, and added in my most sincere voice that they swim upriver froim the Merrimack to spawn every summer.  These folks called their friends over to the rail as we walked on, leaving them to search for and get a picture of Nashua's fresh water sharks.

I do happen to think they were satisfied in their quest though the Nashua River shark is a rare animal, but can't help wondering how many sharks would return, and how many other animals with them, did we make some room for people downtown where now the automobile rules and roars.  Perhaps, we might see the very rare and very gentle New England Manatee again?

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Dan November 28, 2012 at 10:37 PM
I find it rather comical to even think of having lunch at a restaurant on Main Street in the first place. The noise is deafening any time during the daylight hours until sometimes around midnight, then the smell of car exhaust, cigarette and cigar smoke, the occasional smell of a booze hound, and the panhandlers, this is just a great ambiance. Yet instead of paying for safe sidewalks in the neighborhoods, the Mayor would rather spend millions to keep that smelly, noisy ambiances with interruptions from the transients. Nice job Mayor. Put up another bunch of dragons teeth on the sidewalks. Find out what the German Army found out...they are a waste of money!
Dan November 28, 2012 at 10:41 PM
Dragon's teeth were tank traps on the Siegfried Line...for those who were wondering...
Brenda Walsh November 28, 2012 at 11:46 PM
I happen to like dining on Main Street outside on the sidewalk alongside cars, motorcycles, whatever.
Peter Gallaher November 28, 2012 at 11:51 PM
That's great. I have some relatives who take it one step further and tailgate on the infield at Louden.
Peter Gallaher November 28, 2012 at 11:56 PM
I don't know about safe sidewalks. I like the idea of eating outside when the weather's nice, and I think that things can be arranged to ease the traffc load on Main Street so even more advantage can be taken of good weather and fresh air. Times Square in my home town is almost free of vehicles for a number of blocks with thousands of people wandering around, sitting where once cabs and buses roared, lounging and just enjoying the sights. If there, why not here? Just sayin', you know? And, it's good for the wildlife, them sharks and manatees..
Angie November 29, 2012 at 07:45 PM
Peter, I couldn't agree with you more! As I walk by the folks seated on the sidewalk, wedged between a building and idling vehicles, I often wonder why on earth they choose to sit there. It must be important to them to be seen. Personally, when I go out to eat with family or friends, I want to be able to have a conversation without shouting over the sound of the traffic that's just a few feet away. I'd also like to be able to enjoy my food without a side of exhaust fumes. I guess that's why I always choose to eat inside, even on the most beautiful days. I wonder if the Broad Street project will help with this issue, or just create more outdoor seating that I'll never use?
Peter Gallaher November 29, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Angie, Thanks. You know I sometimes wonder if a kind of romantic notion. We play back in our heads a scene from an old movie, Cary Grant and some sweet looking actress, or someone younger, in a plaza somewhere, along the Champs Elysee...something like that. Do you think? The cool breeze, a pleasant wine, great company.. Why not try it. And, then, a dump truck drives by. I love Surf, and Michael Timothy's, and all the other places...and I wish they had more space to spread out in, and folks could stroll by, say hello. All of that. It goes on over there across the pond, you know. Like I said, "Cars don't vote," So how come we let 'em choose how we live? Maybe Broad Street will ease traffic on Main Street, but I think the cure will be worse than the disease. What's wrong with everyone making a left at the top of Library Hill, and a right further south at Allds Street who's on the way East for starters?
Peter Gallaher November 29, 2012 at 08:21 PM
Woops, I should have written "who is on the way east." I don't think "who's" is good English, and I've got to watch myself now that I may be influencing young and impressionable minds.
One Man Wolf Pack November 29, 2012 at 08:35 PM
Hey Pete its' a free country and your free to eat where you want. I am sure there is a resurante or two up in Pitsfield that would love your business and probably set you up with your own grassy vista of mountain side all to your lonesome. Sounds quaint, have at it; after all it is a free country.
Peter Gallaher November 29, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Charlie, you made me laugh out loud! And you reminded me of something. Years ago I was in Singapore for a while. After the business day was over near the hotel where I was (the Hyatt) and the parking lots had been emptied, the places filled up with pushcarts..or that's what i called them...whose owners were in the "restaurant" business. Each pushcart had a different dish: soup, appetizers, main dish. You'd wander from one place to another eating first here, then there, all for a few Singaporan pennies a dish. I still remember the noodle soups, the grouper curry, the pork satay. I have not tasted food as good since then. And I find myself wondering why it couldn't happen here.
One Man Wolf Pack November 29, 2012 at 08:58 PM
Because I am sure most Americans would categorically reject a parlimentry republic / constitutional monarchy with thier lives if need be. Maybe you should look into a commune of sorts. A plot of land kind of like a flea market and it sounds like you have a business idea that could work.
Peter Gallaher November 29, 2012 at 09:05 PM
Good Lord! I wasn't looking for a change of government, just a few cheap eats. And, me and business are not a winning bet. But it might work. But all the parking lots around here are always full. Don't know any flea markets. Haven't got any fleas I want to sell...or buy.
One Man Wolf Pack November 29, 2012 at 09:15 PM
I am positive you could find someone willing to rent you the parking lot here in Nashua; especially if it is after hours and no tennet need, that is the easy part. The hard part is all the regulations. I am sure the city has some sort of ordinance(s) for you to comply with. When you get done there you might want to check in with the NPD for the traffic snarl you'll eventually create. Make sure to collect the approriate taxes. Definately get some insurance. whiel your at it your going to be sued by someone for something so get a lawyer on retainer and have em draft up some agreements of indemnity you'll need to have everyone sign to keep your insurance low. Than make sure all your cart vendors have peddler's licen$e$. Then you can start paying to advertise. Might want to check with the fire department too as they are going to want to have thier say. Then your going to need some form of security to make sure everyone is following the rules....... See in Singapore you cut through all that real quick by just getting the monarch in your pocket first.........And we wonder why it is tough to start a business.......after all all the thing I pointed out have legitmate cause to be in the process.....
Peter Gallaher November 29, 2012 at 10:00 PM
BTW, Charlie, Singapore is a republic, a city-state, but a republic, nonetheless. Anyway, I think I am going to stay retired. Thanks for the advice, though.. I'll buy you a bowl of that soup if the guy ever shows up here. I can afford 3 cents.
One Man Wolf Pack November 29, 2012 at 11:46 PM
If it shows up I'll buy you one. The idea sounds cool, just not practical; knda like world peace. :) Cheers Peter
Peter Gallaher November 29, 2012 at 11:51 PM
Yeah, I know. Like RFK shoulda said, "I dream other things other people don't and say: Oh, so that's why..." Slainte! Charlie
Mouse November 30, 2012 at 03:15 AM
You take the high road and I'll take the low road. Well played, Peter.

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