Thursday, July 26, 2007

Lonely Planet

I'm not going to tell you that travel writing doesn't have its perks -- it does. I'm learning more about a place I love than I ever thought possible, and I get to live at the shore for work. But it's a very singular and sometimes lonely job. As nice as it would be to bring a friend along to do research, it's usually not a good idea. I have a system for finding the information I need, and a friend pulling me back to "try on that cute dress " or maybe eat at the same restaurant we tried last night or go out and have a few drinks -- well, that doesn't go along with my schedule. And a morning hangover does not do my body, or my research, good. So most of the time I'm flying solo.

Yes, it can be lonely. Lucky for me, I'm used to being alone. I work alone, even when I'm not travel writing, and I live alone (though, guys, I am single). That's usually fine with me. I work better that way. The only time the solo thing stinks is dinner time. A few weekends ago, I decided to check out a very nice Italian restaurant in Avalon that will remain unnamed. I brought my book, my appetite, and my notepad (though tucked into my bag).

"Just one?" asked the waitress, who looked to be about 19 years old.

"Yup," I said.

"Really?" she replied.

Not a great start. She was kind to me in a way you are to ugly puppies through the rest of the meal, which is annoying. Just because I'm by myself doesn't mean that I don't get hungry, and I can only take so many Wawa sandwiches in one summer. The food was tasty, but I'm not sure the restaurant make the final cut. And, no, I'm not a bitter person...but it's a new restaurant that was empty for the summer season, and I wonder if it'll still be in business by the time my book comes out. And being treated like a leper didn't help.

Anyway...there are ways to get around the solo traveler thing when it comes to meals. The easiest is to eat at the bar (this Italian restaurant didn't have one). It takes care of the staring at the blank seat across from you thing, and there's usually a TV on somewhere. Plus, you might run into solos like yourself. It's even better if something is going on at the bar that night, like Quizzo. I hit up Quizzo at the Rock n' Chair (2409 Dune Drive, Avalon, 609-967-3300) a few Sundays ago, sat at the bar and started chatting with the lady next to me, who happened to be a local on a Quizzo team of locals. One team member's husband was the bartender, and the entire team gave me insider information on where to go and what to do -- the kind of places and events that I might not have learned on my own. In exchange, I helped out their team, and we won that night. Go team Dazed and Confused!

You can also stick to breakfast and lunches for your restaurant tastings, which is also better for your wallet (yes, everything is tax deductible, but you still have to front the cash -- and, no I don't have an expense account). The reading a book thing helps me, too, and I'll sometimes jot notes in the margins about the restaurant, which doesn't draw as much attention as a notebook would. Other than that, I'll put on my thick skin, remind myself why I'm there, and see what looks good for desert.

What I'm Writing to: Best Days by Matt White.

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1 comment:

Joel said...

I'm lost without a newspaper, Jen. I feel completely odd sitting and staring into space while I eat my meal, so I sometimes go out of my way to pick up a Star-Ledger before I go in to eat.

But your thought about eating at the bar is a good one. There are a few places up here in Morristown where I feel comfortable doing that, mostly steakhouses and nice pizzerias. But eating at the bar in a nice place feels strange to me, so I tend to avoid it.

By the way, that hostess needs to get some tact lessons, Jersey-style. You make your own interpretation of that :).