Of ice cream cones and tacos

Two food items on my mind:

One. Next Tuesday in Bangor, Maine, the last operating Howard Johnson’s in New England will close, leaving only one of those once-familiar, orange roofed restaurants still standing in the USA—in Lake George, New York.

For my readers under ninety this probably won’t matter—there are plenty of dining opportunities to drive-thru on a given day—and nobody needs an archaic building that dispenses clam strips and ice cream cones and nothing else that anyone cares about. But there was a time, before chain restaurants proliferated, when travelers in a strange location sought out that orange roof because it meant a predictably average but comfortably predictable meal wherever they were.

At one time in the 1970s there were more than a thousand HoJo’s in this country, and half as many attached and/or similarly named motels. By 1990 the company had been sold, reconfigured, and retrenched. It was dying in the face of more modern competition, from good-time places that emulated taverns and bars, not quiet family restaurants.

When I was in college and my parents came to visit, HoJo’s was a given. But within ten years the Plainville franchise had morphed into something called the Ground Round with its free popcorn and heavy oak tavern feel. I never saw the change as the opening death knell, but here we are. Still, folks, it’s a three-day weekend and gas prices are low. Five hours gets you to Bangor where you may see the old ice cream sign touting 28 flavors. Be advised though: they’re scooping only vanilla these days.

Two. Last Thursday Marco Gutierrez of Latinos for Trump told Joy Ann Reid of MSNBC, “If you don’t do something about [Mexican immigration], you’re going to have taco trucks on every corner.”

The immediate reaction from most people was—well there’s another reason not to vote for Trump. I mean who doesn’t like tacos, and who doesn’t prefer not driving far to have a couple?


I enjoyed a little fantasy this morning when I looked out the living room window and observed that we live but two houses from the corner. And I remembered that there are evenings when my wife and I are just out of dinner ideas and we either go out or bring something home. But a third option—walking a hundred feet to the corner for tacos—well count us in. We don’t do beef—that could be a problem—but fish, chicken, even veggie tacos—it’s a dream come true. And if there’s a nacho truck here and there….

I don’t know how effective Latinos for Trump is going to be, but Marco Gutierrez needs to learn the difference between the carrot and the stick.

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