The Society Page

All Politics is Local

People are funny! Growing up poor, my definition of a napkin was a paper towel that you use to wipe the grub from your face. It wasn’t until I went to college in Pittsburgh that I learned that in nice restaurants you get a cloth napkin and ceremoniously spread it across your lap before you dig in. I’m still very much a paper-towel kind of guy, but sometimes it’s fun to pretend I’m a fine-linen high-roller.

In this adventurous spirit, this month’s serving of gustatory slapstick takes place at The Front Room, atop Munjoy Hill. Munjoy Hill is a fun place to visit, but I sure wouldn’t want to live there. To get to the restaurant, I had to laboriously trundle up several steep blocks of Congress Street. Portland’s hilliness is tolerable when you live downtown and all your favorite haunts are within 10 or 15 minutes of your mailbox. By the time my struggle was over, my belly was definitely ready for its reward, but there was already a middling crowd waiting outside for tables, so I went in expecting the worst.

Fortunately, because I’m just one little guy in a wheelchair, I didn’t have to wait long for them to find a spot to squeeze me in. I hadn’t perused the menu online prior to my arrival, so was pleased to discover they had delicious Coffee By Design coffee, and the prices were much more moderate than I expected. In the morning, my taste buds follow a tight orbit around pancakes and French toast. The Front Room’s menu had silver-dollar pancakes and brioche French toast. Being an infamously indecisive person, I couldn’t choose between the two and asked the waitress for some strategic advice. She greenlighted the French toast, so I went with her suggestion. The waitress had a familiar sparkle. I asked where I might know her from, and she said she used to sate my gluttony working at Silly’s a few years back.

The restaurant’s décor has a bare-bones, functionalist aesthetic with neoclassical undertones. The silverware was wrapped in a napkin, but it was paper, not cloth, so I didn’t feel the need to assume airs (I kept my monocle in my pocket). I even saw a few of my humble-status friends hunkering in the eaves.

Since acquiring the brain injury, my shield of militant shyness has melted away and I routinely engage strangers in hard-won conversation. This day was no different. I was talking to a group of young professionals, the leader of whom was giving me some stink-eye because I was falling in love with his girlfriend’s sexy shoulders. The young sir had nothing to worry about — his girlfriend was a sassy flash of drastic attractiveness and I am but a lowly lump of licentious lasciviousness.

When my French toast arrived, I pretended I was eating at a five-star establishment and spread the paper napkin across my lap as I savored the brioche’s cinnamon-laced flavor. I pride myself on being a slow, casual eater. When I had mopped up the last drop of syrup with my last forkful of bread, I was still feeling peckish, so I got one of the day’s specials, apple-raspberry bread, which sealed the deal and sent me home happy.

•••

It’s the time of year when political placards sprout up in the city’s green spaces like mushrooms after a wet spell. While the national political scene is a source of infinite agony and feelings of helplessness, on a local level you can really see the impact of your vote. In the gubernatorial race, none of the candidates has blinded me with the brilliance of their agenda, but whoever gets the people’s mandate, it will be a relief to finally be rid of the bad-penny stench of surgically slimmed dickhead Paul LePage.

As for local state reps, I’m giving my thumbs-up to state Sen. Ben Chipman. Though I am but a lowly anarchist, my orbit and Ben’s occasionally overlap, and I have always found him to be on top of the issues and stubborn in his pursuit of the right answer. It takes a balance of pig-headed resolve to stand against oppressors and an open-minded malleability to read the weave and work out real-time solutions. Ben has both, so I wish him a well-earned victory in the upcoming election!

Being an anonymous plebe allows me the privilege of wearing torn jeans and having lax hygiene. But I am glad there are good people willing to do without such freedoms and assume the mantle of public service. #EXPLODETHEMYTHOFCONSERVATIVETHRIFT!!!