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By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Just got back from an eight-day vacation with my wife and son. Here are some things you might like to know (or not).

* The bad news is there was a tropical storm, Fay, the entire time we were away. The good news is the storm was in Florida and we were on Cape Cod. It sure looked nasty on TV, though.

* The weather on the Cape was exceptionally good. Except for a harmless rain shower that came and went in less than half an hour on Tuesday, we almost never saw a cloud in the sky.

* I had trouble locating a street in Hyannis that I needed to get to on Thursday, so I stopped into a convenience store/gas station and asked the clerk where it was. He said he didn’t know. Frustrated, I drove away from the store, and found the street a mere one block away. Seriously, if you’re gonna work in a gas station – or a store or restaurant – in a tourist town, know where things are … especially in your own neighborhood!

* I read two books while lounging near our hotel’s pool and started a third. The two I finished were John Grisham’s “Playing For Pizza,” one of the author’s few non-law-related novels, and a book by Cape Cod resident Marcia J. Monbleau called “The Inevitable Guest.” “Playing For Pizza” is about a washed-up third-string NFL quarterback who reluctantly agrees to play football in Italy and winds up falling in love with a less-than-professional version of the game, the local cuisine and a leggy co-ed. It’s a fun and touching story from a writer whose works almost never have been described as fun or touching. “The Inevitable Guest” is a hilarious, Dave Barry-style primer on how to be both a good visitor and a good host on Cape Cod. People who live on the Cape and those who visit regularly will laugh out loud from cover to cover. Other people, not so much. The book I started, but have not yet completed, is “What Happened,” the White House tell-all by former Bush press secretary Scott McClellan. I’ll share my thoughts after I finish it.

* In an Aug. 9 post, I boasted about how well the Los Angeles Angels were playing. During our time on the Cape, they managed to win only two of the seven games they played from Sunday to Saturday. But the other teams in the American League West are so dreadful that the Angels – now 17 games ahead of the second-place Texas Rangers with just over 30 games left to play – can pretty much sleepwalk through the rest of the regular season and still win the division by a landslide.

* I turned 45 on Wednesday. If you forgot to send me a birthday card, you’re forgiven.

* Boston Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski, thankfully, survived his heart scare and bypass surgery while we were on the Cape. If he had died, all of Massachusetts probably would have shut down for a weeklong period of mourning. (Seriously, though, I’m glad Yaz is doing OK. Even though never a Red Sox fan, I loved to watch him play when I was a kid, and I wish him nothing but good health and a long life.)

* Virtually every restaurant on Cape Cod claims its clam chowder has been “voted best on the Cape.” Funny, though, they never tell you who voted them the honor or when it happened. Seems fishy – or clammy – to me.

* Like many homeowners, Rhona and I have an outdoor gas grill that we love to use during the summer. The place where we stay on the Cape provides grills for the guests to use on their patios, but only the charcoal variety. And you know what? The food always tastes better than when we cook it on our deck in Kingston. I’ve said this before, but this time I mean it: Next time I have to buy a new grill, I’m switching to charcoal.

* Six-year-old girls shouldn’t wear bikinis. Doing so makes it appear that they (or, worse yet, their parents) are trying to show off undeveloped bodies, and that’s more than a little bit creepy. They’re gonna be 16 and 26 soon enough. Let them be 6 for a while. A one-piece swimsuit will do just fine.

* Never am I more glad to be a Citizens Bank customer than when we’re on the Cape. The bank has numerous branches there, including several that are inside Stop & Shop grocery stores, and that means I don’t have to pay a ridiculous service fee to get money at an ATM.

* Speaking of ridiculous expenses, gas on the Cape was running about $3.89 a gallon during our week there. On the Mass Turnpike, however, we saw prices as low as $3.68.

* Tiny Woods Hole, Mass., at the lower left corner of Cape Cod, was the only community on the Cape in which we encountered parking meters, reminding me of all the uproar in Kingston last year about how installing meters in the Uptown, Midtown and Downtown business districts would drive away tourists. Well, it sure hasn’t driven them away from Woods Hole. Virtually every space on the main street was taken, and the sidewalks, shops and restaurants were jammed with visitors. The bottom line is vacationers don’t mind having to pay a little extra for this, that and the other thing. If they can afford the vacation, feeding 25 or 50 cents into a parking meter won’t break them.

* Lastly, despite being on a break from the news business, I couldn’t help but watch some of Saturday’s TV coverage of Barack Obama picking Joe Biden to be the Democratic vice presidential candidate. Most of the cable news operations handled the story about as I expected they would – providing background on Biden, having talking heads comment on the selection and getting reactions from key Democrats and Republicans – but Fox News managed, yet again, to bring unfair and imbalanced to a new level or absurdity. At 2:45 p.m., less than eight hours after Biden was announced as Obama’s running mate, Fox ran one of those bottom-of-the-screen headlines, stating “Poll: Most voters not swayed by choice of Biden.” At no point, however, did any of Fox’s on-air personalities mention such a poll, say where or when it was conducted, state how many people were surveyed or explain how such a conclusion could be reached so soon after the news happened. The reality, I presume, is that no such poll existed. Fox simply was eager to put something on the screen to suggest Obama would not get the traditional “bump” in the polls that usually follows the selection of a running mate. Just another example of how nothing Fox does – especially during election season – can be taken seriously.



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