JT’s Pizza And Pub

UJ and I have written before about JT’s Pizza, our nephew Joe Hartnett’s business up in the north Columbus area, on Route 161.  It serves great pizza and, in UJ’s view, the best Philly cheese steak sandwich you can get anywhere in the Midwest.

Now JT’s Pizza has acquired the former Bier Stube North bar located right next door and will become JT’s Pizza and Pub, offering both great food and drinks and, from time to time, live entertainment in the location at 2832 West Dublin-Granville Road.  Renovations of the interior and exterior of the building have begun, and the goal is to give the new business more of a neighborhood sports bar vibe and better integrate the backyard and patio into the operation.  A “rebranding and relaunch” of the new business is set for November 7.

Our Dad ran a business, and he would be proud of what Joe has done with JT’s Pizza.  It takes some courage to start a business — statistics tell us that a lot of new start-ups fail within the first year — but Joe has produced tasty products, focused on customer service, paid attention to the bottom line, and grown the business from a shop that prepared pizzas for the bar next door’s patrons to an operation that now offers an extensive menu and has lots of carry-out and delivery customers in addition to providing the food service at the Bier Stube North.  Buying the Bier Stube North and consolidating the operations is a big next step, but it’s also a logical one.  And it all starts with pretty darned good pizza.

So here’s a tip of the cap to JT’s Pizza and Pub and its owner Joe Hartnett, one of those small business owners who take risks, create jobs, and help our economy grow.  If you find yourself in north Columbus with a hankering for a pizza, a Philly cheese steak sub, or a cold adult beverage, stop by JT’s Pizza and Pub, won’t you?

Unfizzed And Unfazed

I can’t even remember the last time I had a full-calorie soda.  It’s a time period that can be measured in decades, and it might stretch back into the mid-1980s.  At some point I switched to diet sodas and then I pretty much stopped drinking sodas altogether.

Apparently I’m not alone.  America is in the midst of a long and significant decline in the consumption of soda generally, and full-calorie soda specifically.  The drop in consumption is having the incidental effect of reducing calorie consumption by kids — but we’ve nevertheless still got a serious obesity problem.  The decline in people guzzling fizzy soft drinks, without a commensurate decline in obesity issues, suggests that sodas can’t bear the entire blame for our country’s tubbiness troubles.

What are Americans drinking instead of sodas?  The article linked above says bottled water sales are jumping, and based on my personal observations I’m guessing that consumption of coffee also has increased.  In fact, Americans who used to satisfy their sweet tooth with a Coke may simply have switched to some high-end, caramel-flavored, whipped-cream-topped coffee concoction — which may also explain why obesity rates haven’t tracked the downward path of soda drinking.

I don’t drink either bottled water or high end coffees.  I long ago decided that some tap water over ice, with a lemon slice, would do me just fine.  It quenches my thirst, cools me down, and has a nice light tartness to it — as well as being cheaper, less fattening, and more environmentally friendly.

To Tip, Or Not To Tip

Lately, it just seems like they are inventing new jobs that create impossible “tip, or don’t tip” scenarios.

IMG_6557Consider the guy who drives the shuttle bus from the long-term parking lot or the rental car office to the airport terminal.  He’s piloting a vehicle that you’re riding in, so he’s sort of like a cab driver.  He’s often lifting luggage and putting it on the inside racks, so he’s sort of like a doorman or bellhop.  Yet most people don’t give a thought to giving the shuttle bus driver a tip, whereas the cabbie, the doorman, and the bellhop all expect to get a gratuity.  Why?

The shuttle bus driver isn’t alone.  What about the folks who work at a cafeteria-like food line who have a jar with “tips” written on it by the cash register?  Are you really supposed to tip them?  I’m not saying their job is unimportant or unappreciated, but after all, they’re not coming to your table to take your order, drop off food, or clear off plates, they’re just spooning your grub into a styrofoam “to go” container.  Why, exactly, do they deserve a tip any more than the dishwasher or cook does?

What about the guys at the “genius” bar at the Apple store?  If they quickly fix your computer so you don’t need to buy a new one, is a tip in order?  What about the friendly kid behind the counter at Starbuck’s who remembers that you always get a grande with a double shot of espresso and caramel?  What about the woman who grooms your dog, or the service technician at the car dealership, or the guy who comes out to hook up your internet or fix the furnace?  When are you supposed to tip, and when not?  Is it all just convention and tradition, or is there something more to it?

The only tipping situation that makes perfectly good sense to me is the hair stylist.  She’s flitting around your head with sharp scissors or, in some instances, a razor, positioned just inches away from the jugular vein.  Of course you want to stay on her good side.  A few extra bucks to keep the stylist happy, and uninclined to plunge a sharp implement into the side of your neck, seems like a wise decision to me.  The rest is a mystery.

The Homeless Guy At The Window

I was in Brooklyn Sunday night and went to a Mexican restaurant near my hotel for dinner.  Because I was a single diner, the hostess asked if I’d like to sit at the bar.  I had a book to read and the lighting at the bar was a bit brighter than the table area, so I agreed.

I sat down at one end of the bar, ordered my food, and sipped at my glass of wine.  When I glanced up to look out a nearby window, a street person was there, staring in at me.  He was right up against the window, only a few inches from the glass, radiating that kind of aggressive, wild-eyed look that you see from some members of the homeless brigade — the kind that makes you give them a wide berth.  That’s weird, I thought.

IMG_6983_2I went back to reading my book, was served some chips and salsa and began munching away, looked over at the window again . . . and the guy was still there, giving me the hard-eyed once-over.  From then on, I became acutely aware of his glare.  And as my meal progressed, from time to time I would try to surreptitiously look over to see if he was still there — and he was.  And he saw me looking over, every time.

Why was he doing it?  Was he trying to guilt-trip me into going outside of the restaurant to give him some money so I could eat my meal without being eyeballed?  Was he just bored, and decided to pass the time by playing mind games with a random stranger?  For that matter, was he even aware of where he was, and what he was doing?  I didn’t know, of course, but I was sure that directly interacting with him, or acknowledging his presence any more than I already had, was not a good idea.

I began to wonder what would happen when I finished my food and had to walk past the guy to get back to my hotel.  I didn’t exactly relish the prospect of an unwanted encounter with an apparently angry man in a strange city on a Sunday night.  But finally, as I was finishing my food, I took one last glance over — and the man was gone.  I quickly got my check, paid it, grabbed my book, and hit the road.

It was one of those unsettling experiences that stick with you and make you wonder about the arbitrary elements of life.  I didn’t sleep very well that night.  Of course, he probably didn’t sleep very well, either — that night, or any night.

Everyday Everywhere Gambling

On the C concourse of Port Columbus, at the end of a row of vending machines, sits this colorful Ohio Lottery device.  It apparently allows you to play virtually every game the Ohio Lottery offers — from the scratch-off instant games to the full lottery drawing decided by the rattling ping pong balls.  I guess there must be some bored travelers who might want to pass the time waiting at gate C52 by getting a mini gambling fix, and if so, the Ohio Lottery is happy to help them feed the beast.

Turn on a football game, and you’ll see incessant ads for Draft Kings and Fan Duel.  The little fantasy football group at the office has morphed into a big business with commercials with footage of exuberantly celebrating winners and testimonials where players talk about their winnings and the thrill of competing for cash.

And, of course, Ohio is now home to three casinos and a number of “racinos” that combine horse racing with hundreds of slot machines.  No matter where you live in the Buckeye State, you don’t have to drive far to plop yourself in front of a one-armed bandit with a cup of quarters.  And if you go to a bar after your racino visit, odds are there may be a Keno game available for your enjoyment as you sip your beer.

We live in an era where it’s easier to gamble than it ever has been before.  Does anyone think that’s a good thing?


It’s obvious that ad revenue on some free websites is tied to “clicks” — how many times people tap their mouse to access a story.  It’s one way for the website to account for its traffic and provide data to advertisers who want to know how many people are seeing their banners and pop-up ads.  Not surprisingly, many websites are set up to maximize clicks.  That’s why you often need to click “next page” to read an entire article, for example.

The most irritating aspect of the click-counting emphasis, however, are the articles that clearly are “clickbait.”  You’ve seen them featured on the websites you visit, cluttering things up like unsightly litter on the side of a highway:  where are members of the cast of an old TV show now, what “jaw-dropping” dresses got worn to a recent awards show, which celebrities have killed a person (number 8 will shock you!), what “weird trick” will allow you to immediately lose 20 pounds or secure your retirement, and on and on.  You’ve probably gotten to the point that you don’t even notice them anymore on the websites you visit.

What’s discouraging about the “clickbait” phenomenon, however, is that even more high-end internet content providers seem to be unable to resist publishing their own form of clickbait.  Those are articles that clearly are designed to stoke controversy and provoke criticism, in hopes that the articles will be linked and discussed on other websites.  They’ll gladly accept harsh bashings if a few more clicks come their way.

Even as august a publication as the New York Times isn’t immune from the lure of clickbait.  Recently the Times published an article called “27 Ways to Be a Modern Man” that can only be viewed as high-end clickbait.  It’s a silly piece that lists grossly implausible attributes of “modern men” — such as that they not only buy shoes for their wives, but will know their wife’s shoe size and which women’s shoe brands run large or small — and it’s gotten creamed all over the internet.  But I’m guessing that it’s been one of the biggest click-producers that the Times has published recently, and that will make the Times, and its advertisers, happy.  (I’m not going to link to it because the last thing I want to do is reward the publication of any more clickbait.)

It’s sad, really, to see publications like the Times stoop to the level of clickbait.  It makes me wonder what kind of long-term impact the internet is going to have on the quality of journalism in America.

Rating Everyone On-Line

You can “rate” just about any commercial enterprise on-line, and you can see what other people have to say about those enterprises, too.  So why not a ratings app that allows every everyday person to “rate” every other member of the general populace — whether that person wants to be “rated” or not?

Gee, what could go wrong with that?

Apparently such an app, called “Peeple,” is going to be rolled out in the near future.  It will allow you to post ratings, on a one-star to five-star system, of everyone you’ve known.  As currently configured, the app would allow you to be added to the mix by anyone who had your cell phone number — yet another reason to be circumspect in giving that number out, by the way — and once you’re on the site you’re fair game, whether you’re an attention hound who wants to be reviewed by the world, or not.

What’s the reason for such an app?  Well, some people say it would be nice to have a reference guide that would help them to determine whether to trust someone they’ve just met, but that seems like a pretty flimsy justification to me.  I might pay attention to the overall gist of ratings of a hotel or a restaurant, but are people really going to trust someone in important interpersonal dealings — think of picking a babysitter — because they’ve got one positive review on a mass website from somebody you don’t know?

The real reason for the app seems to be: well, why shouldn’t it exist?  We rate everything these days, don’t we?  And wouldn’t it be interesting to see what people have to say about each other — and, especially, about you?  In a selfie-saturated world, a people-rating site is bound to be appealing to those poor souls who stand at the absolute center of their own little world.  They’ll be flipping to that app constantly, checking to see whether they’ve received a new positive review, and posting positive ratings of their friends to encourage reciprocal ratings of themselves.  Hey, I’m up to an average rating of 4.75 stars!

If you want to be rated by the world, I suppose that’s fine — although I’m guessing that anyone so self-obsessed is bound to get a negative review or two that might jar their healthy self-image a bit.  The real problem is for those folks who would just like to exist without being “rated” by everyone, or thrust into the toxic world of on-line comments.  They’re not offering a hotel room or a meal to the general public; they’re not teaching a class or trying to get you to buy a ticket to see their film.  They’re just living their lives.  Must they really be subjected to “ratings” by people they’ve encountered?

This is another one of those socio-technological developments that seems fraught with peril and destined to produce some serious angst.