Friday, March 16, 2012

Lenten Project III: Murphy's Law Can Kiss My $$$

Generally speaking, I am a non-religious man. Spiritual, perhaps, but religious, no. I am also not particularly superstitious. I may not walk under ladders in fear of something falling on me, but I have no problem taking the elevator to the thirteenth floor or opening an umbrella indoors in order to let the fabric dry off after a good soaking in the rain. I seldom read my horoscope and when I do, I always think to myself that the scribblings are so generalized that they really could apply to anyone.

However, after days like today, I have to think some force is out there keeping an eye on me and every once in a while, a perfect storm brews in such a way that my life is suddenly made miserable, at least temporarily. Let me walk you through such an example, gentle reader. While the only person truly in pain is yours truly, perhaps my tale of woe will give you some entertainment in this mad cap world we live in.

The setup actually began back in January, earlier this year. I happen to be a substitute handbell ringer in my mother's church choir. It was an activity I did growing up and throughout high school. After graduating high school, I didn't pick up another handbell for at least fifteen years. I've alternated being a member and a substitute for the last couple of years. To make a long story shorter, every couple of years, various handbell ringing groups get together for ... well, for lack of a better word, a "conference" where we all play the same music, just en masse. Back in January, I agreed to pay my $60 to be a part of this year's festival since it will be in Akron this weekend.

Fast forward to this past Wednesday evening. I had shown up early to my weekly camera club meeting and as this was a competition week, the room needed to be transformed to accommodate the night's activities. One of the other members asked me to help bring the lightbox down from the second floor. As I slowly helped to lower the cumbersome (but surprisingly light) box down step by step, I had an odd sensation in my upper right thigh. I didn't think much about it at the time as it was simply a quick tinge of pain, but that was all it took to strain the muscle.

As I walked back to my car after the camera club meeting, I noticed a slight change in my gait. It wasn't until I woke up Thursday morning that I really felt it. "Eh," I thought, "it'll work itself out as I start walking." It sort of did and by the time I went out to grab some lunch, I was doing better.

Last night, I attended the final handbell choir rehearsal for the upcoming festival. Unfortunately, even with the occasional aid of a wooden stool upon which to sit, I essentially stood for about ninety minutes during rehearsal. When I went to leave, I felt a noticeable amount of pain with each step. Hoping that another night's sleep might help, I returned home, plopped my butt down on a chair (which helps immensely) until it was time to go to bed.

I woke up this morning, hopeful that my time spent lacking verticality would pay off with decreased soreness and pain. Nope, no such luck. I'm okay when I sit, but when I stand and/or try to walk, it's quite obvious that I am in pain. Not crippling pain, but enough pain that I kind of hobble along. Since the festival starts tonight, I knew I wasn't going to be able to get in any Friday night Lenten fish fries in.

But then an idea struck me. Just down the road from where I work is a small complex of buildings housing a local chain that does fresh fish fries and an Acme Super Market right next door to it. If I take my camera with me, I could do a review of the fried fish sandwich at On Tap Bar and Grille and then stop in at Acme and pick up something to help me deal with the pain (as there will be a *LOT* of standing at this festival). So, I made sure to grab my camera bag along with my keys and wallet and headed out to my car.

As I pulled into the very packed parking lot that On Tap and Acme share, I found a spot a tad closer to Acme. Not my preference, but on Friday at 12:30 pm for lunch, it was the only spot available. I decided to do lunch first. On Tap Bar and Grille (one of four locations in the area) was located at 3997 Medina Road, Montrose, OH 44333 and can be reached at 330-668-1116. Here was a shot of the front of the restaurant:

On Tap Bar and Grille in Montrose, OH
Once inside, I asked to be seated in the lounge area. I find that in general, there are fewer children sitting on that side and it is a more relaxed environment as the tables give you a chance to sit comfortably. While I was handed a menu, I knew what I wanted already and placed my order with my server. The room was pretty packed and I knew that they only did the freshly beer-battered fish on Fridays until they ran out. Fortunately, this was the only thing that was working for me today as they still had fish in the kitchen. After only about fifteen minutes, my sandwich arrived at the table:

Fried Fish Sandwich and Shells and Cheese
The sandwich, available year round on Fridays comes with a standard array of sides, some of which came at no additional expense (Fresh-cut fries, applesauce, cole slaw) and some for an additional $1.00 (sweet potato fries, onion rings, pasta shells and cheese, cottage cheese). Having had all of the sides at some point or another, I knew how much I really don't care for most of the fried items. I would normally get the applesauce as my side, but decided in the "macaroni and cheese" spirit of Lent that I would try On Tap's "Shells and Cheese."

Today's fish sandwich was fried nicely -- the exterior was crispy and not greasy. However, the actual fish, scrod, was a tad on the dry side. That being said, a little of the (not-so-homemade) tartar sauce and a bit of ketchup and I was good to go. The bun has always been a bit uninspired, neither having a deliciousness of its own or imbued by the kitchen staff by say, buttering and toasting the roll first. The tartar sauce had a nice balance between sweetness and acidity. The shredded lettuce and March tomatoes were more or less pointless and I removed them before eating the sandwich.

I could tell that the shells and cheese had been plated first and allowed to sit while the fish was finishing in the fryer as the top of the shells were cold and a bit dried out while the shells at the bottom of the dish were lusciously creamy and still warm. Other than that little bit of discontentment, the shells and cheese were actually quite good and I highly recommend them for the extra $1.

My lunch finished, I paid my check (roughly $9 before tip) and wandered back out into the lovely, sunny Friday air. I dropped my camera bag off on my way into Acme, managed to find a bottle of Bayer and made my way to the front of the superstore to pay for my purchase. It wasn't until I got back to my car that Murphy, poised to strike this entire time, delivered his fatal blow. My car refused to start.

It wasn't the case of a dead battery. I've had plenty of those over the course of my driving history. The starter was trying to turn over the engine, but it just wasn't happening. After assuring myself it wasn't the battery, my thoughts drifted to the starter motor. Well, if it WAS the starter, would I even get any reaction at all when I turned the key in the ignition switch? I tried on and off for the next ten minutes to get my car started with no luck. Beginning to see that I might have to accept defeat and actually call AAA, I first called the Firestone store in the mall located across the street from my workplace to see if they could take it. "Sure, have it towed here."

Next I called AAA where a very helpful woman took down my information and told me that as soon as they arranged for a tow service, they would call me back. Fearing that I might now need a ride to the beginning and ending of tonight's festival plans, I called my mother, who as the group's intrepid organizer, began to escalate her voice in full-on panic attack mode. Fortunately, since I was already in Akron and the festival was in Akron, arrangements could be made for someone to pick me up. As I waited for AAA to call me back, I had time to think about the fact that the car more than likely wouldn't be ready today. And if not, I will have to either have someone pick me up on their way in, or just skip the festival until I can pick the car up. Not exactly what I was hoping for when I signed on back in January.

Half an hour went by with no word from AAA, but at that moment, I noticed a tow truck slowly and methodically driving up and down the car aisles. I got out of my car and flagged him down. I told the driver what was going on and he tried to start the car himself. Rrr, rrr, rrr, rrr. Nothing. "Yeah, it's probably your fuel pump. My guess would be $270 for parts and another $250 for labor." Great. Another $500 put into a car I was only planning on keeping for perhaps a few more months.

He quickly mounted my car onto the metal bars of his tow truck and off we went to drop it off at the Firestone store. When we arrived, I hopped out of the car (painfully, I might add), grabbed my camera bag, and a folder I had snatched from my car just as the tow truck driver arrived at the scene. It had all of the information I needed for this weekend's festival. After dropping off my keys at the front desk, I gave the clerk my cellphone number and suddenly realized the impossibility of the task now set in front of me.

Because of an injury I sustained while helping out at camera club and exacerbated by standing for ninety minutes at the handbell choir practice in preparation for this weekend's festival, I had aggravated the pulled muscle in my right thigh to the point where I had a painful walk and noticeably different gait. I had stopped at Acme to pick up some Bayer to help with the pain, only to leave it in the car, now nicely buoyed into the air at Firestone. I had also decided that since the festival wouldn't allow me the opportunity to attend any Lenten fish fry dinners tonight, I further decided to lug along my twenty pound bag of camera gear in order to get a shot of the food for this blog post.

To get back to my office, all I had to do was walk through the mall to the front entrance, cross the main street and walk up to the front door. However, what would take pain-free and unencumbered people ten minutes to do took me roughly half an hour of painful after painful step. Now, I sit here at the festival, waiting for a phone call from Firestone to tell me that it in fact WAS the fuel pump and oh, by the way, might I have $500 laying around with which to pay for the repairs?

I have a feeling if I didn't have a good sense of humor, I'd be a lot more depressed.

So, there you have it for this week's Lenten fish fry. The good news is that On Tap does a reasonably decent fish fry from fresh fish on Friday's, even outside of Lent. If you're going to get a side, get a non-fried one, even at the premium price if necessary. I do still have reviews from several places last Friday to publish, but I will get those up in the next few days.

I sincerely hope that Murphy got it ALL out of his system for now. I don't think I could withstand another round.

Here are the current rankings so far from best overall to worst overall as well as an individual grade for each of the major elements on the plate.

1. Ancient Order of the Hibernians (Akron): Fish, A; Macaroni and Cheese, B-; Cole Slaw, C-
2. On Tap Bar and Grille (Montrose, OH): Fish, B+, Macaroni and Cheese, A-
3. Fat Casual BBQ (Macedonia): Fish, B-; Hushpuppies, B; Cole Slaw, A
4. American Legion Post 281 (Cuyahoga Falls): Fish, B; Cole Slaw, C+; Green Beans, C; Mashed Potatoes & Gravy, B-


DianeS said...

Oh Tom, I'm sorry to hear that you are in pain and also about your car. I hope both you and the car are on the mend quickly.

Tino said...

Thanks, @DianeS. Me, too. It turns out that it was the ignition switch that needed to be replaced. They couldn't give me a precise quote until the morning, but the Firestone guy said roughly $300.

Tino said...

As @Birdie: What a day! Sorry to hear about your bad luck, I hope you're better soon!

Sorry, Birdie, I accidentally hit "delete" instead of "publish".

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