The letter-writer on a rickshaw in India. photo/Brian Gordon

If you think pedicabs are hard work …

There are always culture shocks when returning to the United States. This time it started when I ordered a “small” ice cream the size of my head (which is also probably larger than average). But what surprised me the most, after spending weeks in India, was seeing a story about what they consider the lowest of menial jobs not only on the cover of The Bollard, but taking up four pages inside [“Pedicab Confessions,” October 2013]. It is believed that if you lived a disrespectful, selfish lifestyle, you will be reincarnated as a rickshaw driver.

Why should it faze me that a hipster is complaining about doing such a job — especially one he chose to leave his well-paying daily grind to do?

On the other side of the world, a hill isn’t even an obstacle. Hell, they don’t even know what bike grease is. There are no laws about how many passengers you can have on your tiny cart, not to mention the added weight of all their groceries. Plus, you have cows (and their shit) in the street, and thousands of motorbikes zooming around you in all directions.

Overweight, obnoxious passengers don’t sound so bad when they’re forking over bundles of cash, made during their miserable cubicle lives, for you to take them on a bike ride. Imagine, instead of listening to these over-paying passengers speak of their beliefs (and then making fun of them), hearing someone of a higher caste (and just about everyone is higher than a rickshaw driver) talk about murders and corruption, but knowing you don’t have enough respect to be listened to because of how low you are in society.

Fifty dollars on a “bad shift” is a fortune compared to the 30 rupees (50 cents) an hour that the hundreds of rickshaw drivers are begging you to spend. But the saddest part about it all is they don’t even have the luxury of throwing their meager earnings on their naked wives (how dare you see your girlfriend naked?!) because, chances are, they’ll never see that forbidden flesh.

So, let’s face it: Portland is turning into a town where, if you’re not making a salary, you’re bending your ass over for tourists. But that’s at least a choice you have the privilege of making.

Gloria Pearse

Good food, bad service

One of my favorite restaurants in Portland has always been The Front Room. I have been eating there for a number of years and have always had a wonderful experience — good food, good service, nice people. I am not in the restaurant business, so all of the negativity surrounding the Smiths had eluded me.

I am appalled by what I have heard and read [“Head Chef in Hell,” September 2013]. I have been to Boone’s several times now, and each time the service has been terrible. The last time I went with my son, we sat upstairs at the oyster bar and had appetizers and drinks. The bartender had to look up in a book how to make my drink, and when I asked for horseradish with my oysters, the other bartender said, “Well, I would have to go downstairs for that!” She then just stood there and stared at me until I told her to “forget it.”

Who says something like that in the restaurant business? She should have said, “I will gladly get some for you,” even if she had to go across the street for it. It is too bad that the service is so bad at Boone’s, because it is a lovely spot and the food was quite good. I, however, will not be returning and would recommend my friends bypass it and avoid the aggravation, as well.

Deborah D. Vallely
Cape Elizabeth

Good service, bad food

My husband, a Portland native, and I spent a week in Portland in mid-September. We picked up a copy of The Bollard while visiting, as we had first seen your magazine while in Portland in June.

We both read your article on Harding Lee Smith with great interest, but herein lies the rub: Neither of us read the article until the day after we ate at Boone’s. We had taken a delightful 90-minute cruise of Casco Bay and, upon exiting the boat and looking for a place to eat lunch, headed to J’s Oyster Bar. However, the place was packed and my husband, knowing Boone’s as an old establishment he’d frequented a number of times years ago, decided we should eat there.

We knew nothing about Smith and were greeted well by staff and seated on the deck. Our waitress was delightful and the food was outstanding. It was the best clam chowder I’ve ever had. I also had fried clams, which the menu claimed were gluten-free. We left the restaurant sated and happy.

Six hours later, I wasn’t so happy. I was violently ill from the food that I ate at Boone’s.

I’ve never met Smith, nor have I eaten at his other establishments. However, what we spent at Boone’s made it the most expensive meal we ate while in Maine, and it was apparently bad food. We’ll never return, nor recommend the establishment. There is nothing worse than being sick from lousy seafood.

Elizabeth and Michael Johnson
Lexington, Missouri



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