Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Budget Inn

Henry enjoying the Budget's pool

The Budget Inn is an embarrassingly accurate name for a hotel. I would know, because the Budget Inn in St. George, Utah is the hotel my family has been staying at for years. The funny thing is, the hotel is pretty nice, as far as economy hotels go. It has an indoor and outdoor pool, a playground, and a mini-fridge and microwave in suite. Budget nothing.

Last week I joined my family for a little vacation in St. George. We all enjoyed some good joking at Budget's expense. There is something inherently hilarious about a name as honest as The Budget Inn. Like, when Traci's father-in-law asked her if our parents had a place in St. George, and she had to reply that no, but they had a room at The Budget Inn. Or when we ran into a friend at McDonalds, and, declining to state the name of where we were staying, instead motioned vaguely across the street.

We encountered another example of a brutally honest name when we ate at The Cheesecake Factory in Las Vegas. My sister ordered their Weight Management Salad. Must they call it the Weight Management Salad? It's specific, sure, but it also conveys too much information. Like the clothing store aptly called Big and Tall. Surely there are gentler, more euphemistic options.

I don't know what's worse: honest names or ironic ones. There seems to be a hint of sadism in the persistent trend to give trailer parks uncommonly luxurious names, like Country Club Estates. It's all good and well to tell people you live in the Country Club Estates, until they come over for dinner.

Bubba recently accidentally signed up for a discount entertainment card called Big Fun. He was making an on-line purchase and realized afterward that he had also enrolled in a program which gives minimal discounts at restaurants where we never eat for a monthly membership fee of $10. It was anything but big fun trying to cancel our membership, as the number listed on the back of the membership card had very limited customer service hours. We still keep receiving checks in the mail from Big Fun, with a nearly invisible disclaimer stating that, if cashed, we will be re-enrolled in the program.

It is not fun to deal with Big Fun, nor is it fun to tell the waitress you'll have a weight management salad. When Romeo exclaimed that a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet, he may have been right. The Budget Inn by any other name would still cost as cheap. But a name change may spare its guests from bouts of mild embarrassment.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Catapult

"Much madness is divinest sense, to a discerning eye", and so begins a poem by Emily Dickinson in which she illustrates the fine line that exists between sanity and lunacy. Certainly many brilliant ideas initially sounded like the product of an unsound mind: antibiotics, flight, the inter-web, the entire family of Ronco devices. Bubba has an idea of his own that has led to an on-going debate between us over which side of the sanity line it falls. His idea? The Catapult.

The Catapult was originally conceived among Bubba's friends (ie, the Clann) in high school. The concept is a little blurry and changes over the years, but the basic gist is a Clann owned restaurant/hang out that would cater to the college crowd and serve specialty donuts and hot chocolate (preferably Steven's Gourmet Hot Cocoa). A catapult would in someway be central to this dining institution, whether by design (the building would be in a shape of a catapult), by function (customers would receive their order via catapult), or some other yet to be imagined way.

Bubba is especially fascinated with the concept of food service via catapult. When I have, quite sanely, pointed out that this method of food distribution would be disastrous, he's suggested that other creative methods could also be considered. Alternative solutions include, but are not limited to, service of food by conveyor belt or the implementation of tube-technology similar to that of drive-through banking.

To whom does the discerning eye belong? I have always claimed to possess it, arguing that establishing a restaurant based on a novel means of food distribution is doomed to fail. But the opening of an "automated" restaurant in Germany may force me to forgo my claim. The restaurant, called Bagger's, is described as "automated" because it doesn't employ any servers. Instead, customers order their meals on table-top touch screens. Their orders are then moved from the upstairs kitchen to their tables via gravity operated ramps. Below is a picture of the joint, and I have to say, it looks pretty cool.

Maybe Bubba was right. Maybe one day the Clann will run a successful hip hang-out. Then I'll not only have to eat food served via catapult, I'll have to eat my words, too.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

This American Life.

I must confess, I have become a little bit addicted to the radio show This American Life. Our friends Jenny and Matt urged us to listen to it several times, but Bubba and I thought to ourselves, "A radio show?"

Yes, a radio show. It is so good that I can seldom get through without laughing, crying, or both. I could go on, but instead I'll direct you to Jenny's blog post about the show: This post finally motivated me to listen to the show, and I have been listening to archived programs non-stop ever since. You can also visit the show's website at

If you've never listened to the program, turn off the t.v. one night this week and try it out. I promise you will be entertained.