Terrific Portland Restaurant

We had our for-real anniversary-plus-one-day dinner at the wonderful Bresca in Portland’s Old Port district. It’s intimate, seating about 18, with a small eclectic, inventive menu, attentive but unobtrusive service, and a wonderful atmosphere. It’s worth the hour drive from the lake–we’ll be back.

Gossip, the Perverter

Over the years I’ve read this 20 or 30 times while preparing classes. Its truth and prescience hits me afresh each time.

Gossip is no longer the resource of the idle and of the vicious, but has become a trade, which is pursued with industry as well as effrontery. To satisfy a prurient taste the details of sexual relations are spread broadcast in the columns of the daily papers. To occupy the indolent, column upon column is filled with idle gossip, which can only be procured by intrusion upon the domestic circle . . . In this, as in other branches of commerce, the supply creates the demand. Each crop of unseemly gossip, thus harvested, becomes the seed of more, and, in direct proportion to its circulation, results in the lowering of social standards and of morality. Even gossip apparently harmless, when widely and persistently circulated, is potent for evil. It both belittles and perverts. It belittles by inverting the relative importance of things, thus dwarfing the thoughts and aspirations of a people. When personal gossip attains the dignity of print, and crowds the space available for matters of real interest to the community, what wonder that the ignorant and thoughtless mistake its relative importance. Easy of comprehension, appealing to that weak side of human nature which is never wholly cast down by the misfortunes and frailties of our neighbors, no one can be surprised that it usurps the place of interest in brains capable of other things.  Samuel D. Warren and Louis Brandeis, The Right to Privacy, 4 Harvard Law Review (1890)

Prescient, because it Warren and Brandeis wrote it in 1890. True, because ever time I see the gossip rags in the supermarket checkout line, ever time I spot a picture of Kim Kardashian, I feel brain cells wither.

Goose-Stepping

By the time we returned to I-95 traffic was heavy, but moving at 40 mph, picking up speed after the I-95/I-93 interchange. We sailed along to South Lynnfield, where traffic slowed inexplicably. Traveling in the far left lane we saw why: a family of geese, two adults and three goslings, standing adjacent the jersey barrier in the highway median. We stopped, as did the car in the middle lane, as the geese paraded before us across the Interstate. In the rearview mirror I saw cars in the right lane moving along, their drivers’ views of the geese blocked by the cars stopped to their left. After the geese cleared our lane I said “I don’t want to see this” and started forward. I saw the lead goose step into the right lane. The first car swerved right to avoid them and the car behind it, far enough behind the first car for its driver to see the peril and without a tailgater to crash into its rear, stopped just short of where the geese finished strolling across six lanes if I-95 rush-hour traffic–without losing a feather. The Miracle on Blacktop.

I said “I hope they didn’t leave something important on the other side.” Judy said “yes–like another baby.”

The Burger and Fries Anniversary

Yesterday was our wedding anniversary. Early anniversaries connect with traditional gifts–years one through five are, respectively, the paper, cotton, leather, fruit or flowers, and wood anniversaries. Every-year traditional gifts end with the 15th,  or crystal, anniversary, showing up on the fives–2oth = china, 25th = silver, 30th = pearl.* Married on 24 May 1980 we celebrated our 32nd anniversary, which we celebrated by crawling through traffic on I-95 north and a spontaneous side trip to the Beacon Grille in Woburn, a town northwest of Boston best known as the locus of the toxic tort litigation against W.R. Grace that was the subject of the book and movie A Civil Action.

We left home for the drive to Maine about 4:20 and were mired in I-95 traffic within a few miles. Our plan was to shop for dinner when we exited the highway in Gray, Maine and eat as the sun set over the lake. Our door-to-door travel time is typically between 2 3/4 and 3 hours. After 55 minutes yesterday we’d covered about 17 miles, with the worst traffic ahead. We’ve driven this route for years, and for years when we noted the Beacon Grille’s pleasing and prominent sign plastered to the side of a suburban office park we said “we should eat there sometime.” But driving to Maine the restaurant is too close to the beginning of the trip and returning it’s too close to home, so we keep driving.

Until yesterday. We could spend another hour crawling to the I-95/Route 128 split, where traffic usually thins, or spend an hour at Beacon Grille and reach the split in 15 minutes. We exited I-95, wormed our way to the office park, parked in front of the restaurant, grabbed seats at the bar, ordered burgers and fries (not on the dinner menu but they made them anyway), and relaxed. We celebrated our 30th anniversary eating asparagus risotto and mushroom ravioli at Ristorante La Loggetta in Cortona, Italy overlooking the piazza at twilight. Although not as picturesque our dinner at Beacon Grille provided another of the fun experiences that keeps a marriage going for 32 years.** (And the burgers were quite good.)

*Judy would dissolve with laughter at the implication we actually observed these traditional gift themes.

Why I Prefer Mutual Funds

Question of Fair Play Arise in Facebook’s I.P.O. Process from the NYTimes DealBook discusses how Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and other banks involved in the Facebook IPO “shared a negative outlook about Facebook with a select group of clients, rather than broadly with all investors.” In the days preceding the IPO the banks’ respective analysts lowered their estimates of Facebook’s growth after the company shared its quarterly and annual revenue projections.

As is typical in the I.P.O. process, research analysts at Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and other firms contacted certain clients to discuss their revised expectations, while other big investors called on the banks to get their new take. But ordinary mom-and-pop investors did not have the same access to the valuable information.

The S.E.C. is investigating the Facebook IPO but what’s described above may not violate any laws: “research analysts are not obligated to share their work with the wider public. The rules governing the I.P.O. process allow analysts to confer with particular clients, as long as it is done in line with a bank’s longstanding policies.” Nevertheless, it shows how the game is rigged in favor of institutional investors, at retail investors’ expense.