Thursday, May 28, 2015

Memphis (Day Two...)


After an excellent night's sleep we enjoyed a wonderful buffet breakfast right here at the hotel (included in our package). Allow me to say... some of the best bacon I've ever had; kick-ass sausages as well; perhaps the best cheesy grits I've ever had... and eggs made to order - in my case with a side of hollandaise sauce!

Next stop... Sun Studio!

Folks... I can't recommend the Sun Studio tour highly enough! Simply amazing! (Amazing in a PURE way... not "flash"... not. glitz... just  old-fashioned respect and enthusiasm for the history and reverence for the music and its pioneers.

(*NOD*)

PLUS... FREE PARKING...! And beyond the free parking, a REASONABLY PRICED admission and INEXPENSIVE beverages including fresh made (and delicious!) malteds! (One of which - a chocolate - I enjoyed myself!)

Seriously... I simply can't say enough good stuff about the Studio and the tour! Our guide Rae was simply wonderful! (Tall and pretty as well as enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and friendly!)

(Hmm... don't know if Mary's gonna be thrilled by that last remark... but... what the hell...)

(*HUGE FRIGGIN' GRIN*)

To those of you who make it to Memphis in the future... DON'T MISS the Sun Studio Tour!

Oh... AND AS A BONUS... as already noted there's free parking... but there's also free shuttle service between Sun Studio and Graceland! (Yep... park the car for free... utilize the free shuttle!) (Just don't neglect to tip the shuttle driver! Everyone's gotta make a living!)

Next stop... GRACELAND!

So... we took the free shuttle to Graceland - a good 15 minute ride - singing (well, me, anyway) as we traveled (since the "van" had a monitor playing Elvis concert footage). The shuttle drops you off at the main tourism center - which is actually across the street from Graceland itself.

I won't go in-depth; suffice it to say that while expensive ($40.50 p.p. AAA rate) and commercial (the literally have four or five SEPARATE souvenir shops), the house... the property and outbuildings... the cars... the artifacts... the PLANES (two of them!)... 

(*EXHALING*)

...and of course being able to visit the grave site and serenity garden...

(*BOWING MY HEAD*)

...made the "pilgrimage" well worth taking.

(*NOD*)

All told... after leaving our hotel this morning at 10:30 a.m. we didn't get back to The Peabody till 5:30 p.m.!

Anyway... in dire need of adult hydration we self-parked and headed straight to the local beer bar - The Flying Saucer... impressive tap selection and doubly impressive bottle selection.

(*NOD*)

A few beers there and then back "home" to our room to shower, shave, and dress.

Next stop... Paulette's.

(Well... let me rephrase that. How'bout... "Not Paulette's?")

O.K. Here's what happened: Beautiful restaurant. Wonderful menu. REASONABLE prices (from our New York perspective). Here's the thing, though; in the same building... on the forth floor... there's a really cool cocktail bar/tapas joint. And... the piano player at Paulette's advised us (when asked) that if we could only fit in EITHER Paulette's OR "Terrace (at the River Inn"), then his advice was to forgo "yet another fine dining establishment" and instead opt for tapas and drinks overlooking the river and the lighted bridge.

AND THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT WE DID...!!!

(*NOD*)

And, folks... let me tell you... yet ANOTHER fine decision!

The view... setting... atmosphere... service... food & drinks... EXACTLY what we'd been looking for!

(*BURP*)

Who the heck needs Beale street when places like Terrace exist...?!?!

Anyway... things generally close up early in Memphis so by 10:30 p.m. we were sated and heading home.

It's now a bit past 11:30 p.m. and we're "home"... Mary's in bed... and I'm ready to join her the moment I post this.

Goodnight!

TO BE CONTINUED...


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Memphis (Day One...)


Well, folks, we're in Memphis now!

Woke up this morning... another wonderful breakfast at the "TD" House... more swimming... more hot-tubbing; we hit the road around 12:30 p.m. and after a three-plus hour drive we arrived at our new "home away from home," Memphis' famous Peabody Hotel!

Exerting a wee bit of the irresistible "Barker charm" upon the lovely young lady at the check-in station helped to secure us an 11th floor river view room with all the comforts of home... PLUS... a TV in the   (as well as the big screen TV in the main room).

(*WINK*)

After a member of the bell staff brought up our luggage we headed up to the roof to enjoy the phenomenal view and await the arrival of...

(*DRUM ROLL*)

...the Peabody Ducks!

(It's good to be a guest at The Peabody!)

After "greeting the ducks" and exchanging pleasantries with the... er... "Duck Master"... we hit the bar - The Corner Bar - for a few happy hour cocktails (for me; Mary had one beer) and more pleasantries - these ones exchanged with our bartender and our fellow dru... er... customers.

(*GUFFAW*)

Next... to the pool! (A beautiful indoor pool - "Roman Bath" style motif! Separate hot-tub. Weight room. Cardio room. Full spa.) The pool water temperature wasn't quite as warm as I prefer (say 83-87 degrees), but it wasn't frigid. I'd say it was perhaps 80 degrees. Once you we actually fully in... well... it was pleasant enough.

We spent perhaps an hour at the pool before heading back upstairs to our room to shower and dress for dinner. Tonight's lucky winner of the "Where Will Bill and Mary Eat" sweepstakes... Folk's Folly... supposedly the finest steakhouse in Memphis.

It WAS damn good! I had the dry aged special and Mary had some fru-fru concoction that was also pretty good...

I won't list our whole meal; suffice it to say that from drinks to appetizers to salads... from bread to entrees... Folk's Folly met my expectations. And although it was our most expensive meal so far... I felt - feel - that the quality of the meal and the general experience of dining at a restaurant such as this easily justifies the splurge.

After dinner, but prior to returning to The Peabody, we decided to detour to Beale Street.

(*PAUSE*)

Touristy. Tacky. And frankly... it smells bad. (Beale Street at  night smells like Bourbon Street (New Orleans) in the morning.

(*SHUDDER*)

Still...

(*ANOTHER PAUSE*)

We saw it... we walked it... we can now cross Beale Street off "the bucket list."

(*WINK*)

Back to The Peabody... another quick "cool down" shower for me... and...

(*CYMBAL CRASH*)

BED TIME...!!!

TO BE CONTINUED...

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Nashvville (Day Five...)


Well, well! A couple nice responses to these "vacation posts!" Thank you Michelle... thank you, Carl!

Monday was a rainy day - which just happened to fit our itinerary perfectly! Ya see... Monday was "Museum Day."

(*WINK*)

Yep... after yet another scrumptious home-cooked-to-order breakfast here at the Timothy Demonbreun House (complete with "real" cappuccino and house-made sausage) we were off to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum!

Was the Hall of Fame/Museum all it's cracked up to be? Frankly... and I write this with mixed feelings and some regret... no.

WHY...?!?! WHAT'S THE PROBLEM...?!?! Well... in a nutshell... it's too damn big... too damn excessive... too "monument to the grandeur of the city" with more of an "institutional" feel than a laid back down home "country" feel.

(Those who have been there... you'll know what I'm talking about.)

The building... and the "presentation" of the exhibits within... simply "overwhelm" the memorabilia.

(At least that was my take...)

In short... I found the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum" to be too impersonal... too "commercial"... too... er... "marketing focused."

Am I glad we went? YES! Did they have some neat stuff - including a few "cars of the stars?" Yep! Would a smaller, less flashy, more "authentic"physical homage to American Country Music "play" better to fans such as myself... absolutely. (Hey... just one man's opinion!)

After the Hall of Fame/Museum it was off to the Patterson House for cocktails. Hard to find (but worth it!), we arrived at 4:30 p.m. - only to find that they didn't open till 5:00 p.m.

(*CHUCKLING AS I ROLL MY EYES*)

So... we decided to simply drive around and explore. We discovered "The Gulch" and "Music Row" (where the various studios/labels are headquartered) and eventually found ourselves stumbling upon the area where our Monday night restaurant is located. Anyway... rather than go back to the Patterson House (we figured we'd hit them for post-dinner cocktails) we decided to go to "our" restaurant early and have a drink at their bar prior to our 6:00 p.m. seating reservation.

Monday was "French Night." Our destination? Table 3. Folks... (what can I tell ya?)... yet another inspired choice!

YES... this place is sited at a mall. NO... the location does not distract from the food, service, and atmosphere! Dinner was excellent! The prix-fix salads were wonderful and the entrees were sublime. (Yes... "sublime"... it's one of them thar "college words.") Mary had coq au vin and I had trout almondine. (And back to the salads... their Caesar dressing... OH... MY... GOD! And my beet and goat cheese salad... YUM!)

As for dessert...the restaurant has an attached cafe/marketplace. After dinner we simply went next door and purchased a house-made lemon-ginger sorbet (which we ate sitting on a bench outside) and a slice of pineapple-coconut tart which we took with us and plan to eat today (which is Tuesday as I type) while on the road to Memphis.

Post-dinner... the Patterson House... set up like a speakeasy... VERY upscale... a true cocktail lover's cocktail bar where not only are the drinks handcrafted - but so are the ingredients... from syrups to bitters!

After a few cocktails there we were off to 3rd & Lindsley for live music... only...

(*PAUSE*)

We ended up NOT spending time there after all...

(*ANOTHER PAUSE*)

Here... allow me to backtrack. On the way to 3rd & Lindsley I was pulled over by a cop.

(*GUFFAW*)

(*JUST SHAKING MY HEAD*)

It was the damn GPS's fault - I swear!

(*STILL CHUCKLING*)

Anyway... this place (3rd & Lindsley) is a bit hard to get to and the GPS directions were...

(*YET ANOTHER PAUSE*)

Let's just say "less than perfect."

Anyway... the officer was real nice. We explained why my driving might have seemed a bit... um...erratic.. and he "got" it without batting an eye - and without even asking if I'd been drinking!

(*SMILE*)

He of course ran my license, but obviously we were tourists and he himself volunteered that getting to 3rd & Lindsley is a bit tricky. After giving us proper directions he wished us a good night and we were off to continue our night.

Here's the deal though:: When we got to 3rd & Lindsley, parked, and went in... we were greeted with the words, "How do you wanna pay the cover - cash or card?" Moreover, it turned out the cover was $20 - PER PERSON!

(*SNORT*)

Sorry 3rd & Lindsley! All due respect... I'm not paying $40 to see some band I've never heard of - even IF the waitress at Marche Artisan HAD given us the head's up!

So... back to the car... Plan B - The Listening Room.

GREAT PLACE! Free parking... no cover... excellent drinks... but unfortunately we hit it just as the band was finishing up. Live music for ten minutes... a cocktail for me and a beer for the Poops... and that was that.

(*WINK*)

Since it was "only" around 10:00 p.m. and it WAS our last night in Nashville we figured we'd hit downtown one last time. Monday night... even Memorial Day Monday night... it was kinda dead. (Comparatively!) Even Acme was closing up just as we arrived! Anyway... we were both pretty sated by this point and since I wanted to get up a bit earlier than usual the next morning so as to enjoy the pool and hot-tub after breakfast we decided to call it a night.

TO BE CONTINUED...


Monday, May 25, 2015

Nashville (Day Four...)


Sunday morning: showered, shaved, breakfast... yadda, yadda, yadda...

Spent a good 90 minutes in the pool... hot-tub... pool... hot-tub... lounge chair...

Hit the road for Franklin, TN at 1:00 p.m. or so... AND GLAD WE DID!

Wow... what a great little town; picturesque... quaint... friendly small town charm... 

(*NOD OF APPROVAL*)

After walking around for an hour or so, checking the various shops, boutiques, churches, parks, stately homes, we decided to take a "wine break." And folks... where's the best place to take a "wine break?" Why a winery of course!

Luckily... about 20 minutes south of Franklin there's Arrington Vineyards!

Anyway... it being Memorial Day Weekend Sunday the place was PACKED! Still... free parking... plenty of lawn space...  what the heck, right?!

So... there were lines for "tastings." However... no lines for bottle purchases and actual drinking...!

(*HUGE FRIGGIN' GRIN*)

Moments later, opened bottle (Petit Noir) and glasses in hand, we snagged a "hidden" table around the back side of the tasting building which overlooked (actually "underlooked") the "upper"vineyards... and spent the next hour chatting, relaxing, and enjoying the view and the wine.

Next... back to Franklin - where we dropped in at "Gray's On Main" for handmade cocktails and appetizers!

Yum... yum... yum...

(*RUBBING MY BELLY*)

(*INSISTING MARY RUB MY BELLY*)

(*GUFFAW*)

Wow... that's all I can say! OUTSTANDING food and drinks! (And service... and atmosphere... and a view - we had a second floor bar table "on the front window" overlooking Main Street!)

Post-cocktails... enjoyed live music "On the Square" while sitting on a park bench - perfect temperature with a slight breeze. Just... WONDERFUL!

Next stop... Rumors East... (Or so we had hoped...) Unfortunately, upon arriving, we found that they were closed for a private event - a wedding -  a wedding to which we weren't invited...

(*SIGH*)

Plan B? Two-Ten Jack!

(*GRITTING MY TEETH*)

Unfortunately... CLOSED (as well).

(*SIGH*)

So... back into Nashville... back to Printer's Alley... and back to the Fleet Street Pub - this time for food.

Folks... let me tell ya... it all worked out! Found street parking on my first "pass"" around the block...  the pub was of course open... and... THE FOOD WAS AWESOME...!!! All homemade to order! And MORE than reasonably priced! (I'm telling ya'll... Fleet Street Pub is a "must visit" when it comes to food and drink in downtown Nashville, Tennessee!

Next stop... BACK "HOME!"

(*WINK*)

Arrived back at the  B&B right at the stroke of midnight!

TO BE CONTINUED...


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Nashville (Day Three...)


After a great night's sleep (on our sleep number bed) we awoke, I checked emails and such, and down to breakfast we went! Richard - Richard Demonbreun, the B&B's owner and namesake - is a fine cook, and we ate a hearty breakfast before "retiring" to the hot-tub for a soak and to read the paper... which was of course a mistake; reading the news only served to somewhat upset my formerly happily filled stomach!

We actually "hung" till a bit after 1:00 p.m. before leaving to start our explorations of the day; first stop... Centennial Park - where we attended the Memorial Weekend Festival at "Musician's Corner." (Free! Which is for me!) Food trucks... BAR stations... ("Jack" and lemonade for me; "Tito's and lemonade for the Poops!) A really cool family friendly gathering - the perfect springboard to our main Centennial Park destination: Nashville's Parthenon!

What can one say about Nashville's Parthenon? (Attn: Maria Theodoropoulis Leiter: "Our" Parthenon is better than "your" Parthenon!)  Anyway... check out the website info!

Next up... SNACK TIME! And for our snack... HATTIE B's! Finger-lickin' good "hot" fried chicken and fresh-made lemonade and iced tea! (Yum-yum-yum!) We got there just a bit after four o'clock - after the lunch crowds but before the dinner crowds. Even so... we spent maybe five minutes on line and fifteen minutes or so waiting for our freshly-cooked-to-order to be served. (We ordered "to go" so as to bring it "home" to eat poolside.)

What can I tell ya? DAMN... FINE... CHICKEN...!!! (In fact, we still have a breast in the fridge as "reserve!")

After "snacking"... and after some pool and hot-tub action... it was time to head to the Grand Ol' Opry for the Saturday show and live radio broadcast. From the B&B it took us maybe 20 minutes to get to The Opry. (And because I'm me we found splendid free parking. Though all the parking is free - the Opry is part of a huge hotel and shopping mall complex - getting a good space requires patience and a bit of luck!)

The show? WONDERFUL! The headliner? Jaimie Johnson - one of my favorite country stars. But, hey... the Opry is only partially about the headliner - it's about "The Show" as a whole... as a tradition... as FAMILY entertainment put out by America's country music FAMILY. Makes ya damn proud to be an American...

We had planned on the show ending at 9:00 p.m. and therefore made dinner reservations at "Firefly Grill" for 9:30 p.m. but the show actually  didn't let out till after 9:30 p.m. - meaning we were late for our reservation. Thing is... it wouldn't have mattered. When we arrived at 10:00 p.m. the place was - literally -  empty! 

(*GRIN*)

No... thank God, NOT empty of staff... not CLOSED... but it turned out that this being an out of the way gem with a customer base of locals AND it being Memorial Day Saturday, most of their regular patrons were either away for the weekend or else barbequing (or whatever). In any case... it really is true that all's well that ends well! The host told us "ya'll com'on in" and sat us down, gave us menus, and quipped, "The good news is... you'll have the chef's full attention!"

Anyway... the food was GREAT! We split a very unique mac & cheese as an appetizer (a little tangy... slight kick to it... just a different kind of "cheesy"). Mary had gnocchi with cauliflower and kale in a cherrry tomato reduction while I had the chef's take on Shrimp and Grits. (With chorizo!) Again... AWESOME! (And... since we were the only customers left... we chatted with our server throughout the meal - chatted about politics in fact!)

After dinner we drove down the road to the world famous (thanks to "Nashville" the TV show) Bluebird Cafe! It's actually a tiny little place set in a small strip mall and while you can apparently sometimes get lucky and get in without a reservation... last night was not to be our lucky night. (They were packed; plus, the show had started already.) Still... we got to see the place!

(*WINK*)

Tired... stuffed... at that point we decided to call it a night. We arrived "home" at around 11:30 p.m. and...

(*HUGE FRIGGIN' GRIN*)

TO BE CONTINUED...


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Nashville (Day Two...)


So where was I...??? (Oh, yeah... Friday...)

After checking out of the "Club Hotel" we decided to backtrack to the previous day's "to do" list and check out the "Silly Goose" - if only for a drink! (Non-alcoholic! Yep! Swear to God!)

Basil lemonade! That's what I had! And for my Poops... pomegranate pineapple red iced tea! (Yum-yum!)

Freshly hydrated... next stop... our B&B - The Timothy Demonbreu House!

Folks... I leave it to those who are interested to peruse the B&B's website... suffice it to say, "A very Bill-like place to stay."

(*WINK*)

We're even staying in "The Honeymoon Suite" - aka "The Game Room." (We have a friggin' POOL TABLE...!!! And a card table! And a dartboard!) We have a "sleep number King bed," a "huge screen" TV, a couch, a couple recliners, a couple high-back "formal" chairs, a wine cooler, and seven windows giving us three-way views! Very... very... very... nice.

(*NOD*)

Oh... and of course... a heated in-ground pool with diving board and slide as well as an adjoining hot-tub! (Yes, folks... it's GOOD to be Bill!)

After settling in and availing ourselves of the facilities for the next few hours it was time for Happy Hour... or.... to be more specific... Happy HOURS... plural.

(*CHUCKLE*)

First stop: The Germantown Cafe. A couple drinks there and next stop...

Holland House Bar & Refuge! (Just one drink here.. but as I'm posting this in real time, my guess is we'll be dropping in again prior to heading home next week!)

Next stop... The Pharmacy: Burger Palace and Biergarten! (Yes... BIERGARTEN!)

(Had a beer there... and we split a burger; after all... it's called "food and drink" for a reason!)

Next stop...

(*GUFFAW*)

...the Fleet Street Pub!

(*TWO THUMBS UP*)

As the name infers, a "British" pub. Fuller's ESB on tap... (which of course is what yours truly drank..). Great music - an eclectic selection featuring '80's "Punk" - as well as a menu (and reputation for outrageously good "pub grub") - that will no doubt bring us back there for another visit!

So... now... finally... it's time for dinner! So... it's off to Margot Cafe and Bar!

(Yes... I know... some wonder "How does he do it...?!?!" Answer: Sheer guts and determination! That... and a cast-iron stomach... and the "tolerance" of Rasputin!)

The place... the ambiance... warm, inviting, and romantic.

(*NOD*)

The food? Good... but except for dessert... didn't blow my socks off. (At least not in the way the food at their sister establishment - Marche Artisan Foods - had. Still... well worth the money... no "complaints"... a very professional staff... I certainly don't regret the visit. (I think part of the problem - for me - is that while we'd been looking at a sample menu online, in reality they change the menu nightly. Now of course this can be a wonderful practice, but last night's particular menu... nothing really "spoke" to me, so I ended up having a steak - which, while good, wasn't what I'd  come to Margot for.)

Anyway... after coffee, dessert, and (for me) grappa... it was back to the B&B for some simply relaxation... a bit of TV... and BED.

TO BE CONTINUED...


Friday, May 22, 2015

Nashville...


Well, folks... here we be! Rebels with a cause! The vacationing Barkers are at it again!

First... the usual bitchin' and moanin' about technology:

I... HATE... FRIGGIN'... LAPTOPS...!!!

Hey, you know me... I'm a BIG guy! These hands... these fingers... they just ain't made for typing on a laptop!

And here's the thing: I was on the hotel's public desktop... but the browser they use (I've never heard of it) wasn't properly opening certain web pages - including my own "new posts" page here at Usually Right!

Anyway...

(*SHAKING OFF MY ANNOYANCE*)

...I'll survive.

(*WINK*)

So... we arrived yesterday. Flew into Nashville and picked up the rental car (and awesome brand new Chevy Impala by the way) and were on the road headed to The Heritage before 9:00 a.m.

GOD BLESS OL' HICKORY!

After three and a half hours of touring this national treasure dedicated to one of the finest men this country ever produced it was off to lunch at Marche Artisan Foods.

Suffice it to say...

(*MOAN OF CONTENTMENT*)

...um-um-um-um good...!!!

Folks... you know me... when I say this place is AWESOME... one of the best lunches I've had in my LIFE... you can take that to the bank!

After lunch... off to the hotel - our little "cheapie" for the first night since the B&B we're moving to today wasn't available last night. Let me say... for $109/night it's  gonna be hard to find a better place! Last night they gave us a free happy hour - drinks and hot and cold snacks! This morning... hot breakfast! Nice outdoor pool; kick-ass indoor 12-person hot-tub!

Anyway... after checking into to our King Superior room we took a nap... (having been up since 2:45 a.m.) and after that we showered prior to joining some other hotel guests for a for a round at the bar prior to heading out to our first night's entertainment in Nashville, a show at The Ryman - "Opry Country Classics" hosted by Larry Gatlin and featuring Ray Stevens (on "our" night).

What a GREAT show... and what a WONDERFUL venue! Living history, my friends... living and breathing!

Next... off to Acme Feed & Seed for a bit (more) live music and a couple beers!

Again... folks... I can really pick 'em! Great music... fine selection of adult beverages... happy crowd... and all with no cover! (Gotta be the best bar in the "tourist" area!)

Next...

YES... I said "next..."

Merchants (Established 1892) Restaurant for a late night (10:45 p.m. or so) "snack."

Gotta be honest... the food was good... not great. Still... the setting... atmosphere... the history of the place... AND THE EXCEPTIONAL SERVICE... all made it a stop we're glad we made. (Hell... one of the hostesses was a little lady from Warwick, NY - 20 minutes from our little village of Harriman, NY.)

Anyway... we finally got back to the hotel at around midnight. After a good night's sleep we awoke this morning and had breakfast here at the hotel before taking a soak in the hot-tub. (The pool is beautiful and the water's not really all that cold... but this morning it was only in the low 60's with a bit of a breeze so we decided to skip a morning swim.)

Now... packing up to head to our next stop...

TO BE CONTINUED...


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

To Paraphrase: First We Kill All the Dentists!


OK... perhaps not all the dentists... but definitely it's time to "cull" the endodonists.

$1,200 - for one root canal... are these people friggin' high...?!

Yes, folks... I'm now aware... that's "the going rate." Well, folks... I'm here to tell you... that's simply unacceptable and it's yet another sign that America has become a nation of Sheeple who simply "accept" whatever "the powers that be" tell then is acceptable - even when it's clearly not.

Allow me to share my sad tale from the beginning...

The wife and I hadn't seen a dentist in awhile. Our "old" dentist is in the City and since having completed major dental work with her and her associates years ago we fell into a pattern of "out of sight, out of mind." (In other words, no pain... no toothaches... no apparent "problems" - we procrastinated.)

In any case, awhile back - earlier this year - I noticed that one of my front teeth was visibly stained. This served as an "alarm" and at that point I knew it was time to find a local dentist - which I did.

I chose a dentist basically at random, based upon his ad in our local weekly newspaper advertising supplement. "With coupon" new patients were entitled to a $69 initial consultation, exam, and cleaning. (And, yes... it's a reputable practice; several of our friends and neighbors use this dentist.)

Anyway... Mary and I both "signed up" as new patients and we both took advantage of their "new patient special."

Fine! Great office! Very hi-tech. Pleasant - and competent - staff. We both liked the dentist.

Our exams and cleanings went off without a hitch. "Problems" were found of course, but we'd expected that. It seems that we're both going to need multiple root canals and crowns. (Two for me... two for Mary.) Prior to that, though - first order of business - I required a cavity drilled out and a filling placed. No problem! Perhaps forty minutes in the chair and I was good to go! Cost: $134.

Now... to backtrack... allow me to note that one of the things I like about my new "general" dentist is that when I first called to make our initial appointments I was asked if we had dental insurance. When I told the staffer we didn't her response was to advise us to look into Careington Membership Dental Plan. This plan isn't insurance; what it does is give you set rates for member dentists (my dentist is a member, obviously) that in theory save you anywhere from 20% to 60% off services rendered. There's a fee schedule allowing members to see exactly what the negotiated fees are.

Here's the problem: The fee schedule (which lists root canals as ranging in price between $366 and $557) applies only to Careington Plan "general" dentists - not specialists. For member specialists... endodonists for example... the Careington discount is 20% off of "normal" fees.

And what are "normal" fees...??? Ah... now that's the question, isn't it...?!?! And to continue with my story, that's where the problem comes in!

So... where was I? Oh, yes... initial exam and cleaning $69 - incredibly reasonable! (Remember, though, this was an "in-house" special - not the Careington Plan rate.) One cavity filled - $134 (absent the Careington Plan discount it would have cost $139 I believe. Not the greatest discount, but every little bit helps). Bottom line, though, whether $134 or $139, I find this fee quite reasonable. We're talking a half hour - perhaps 40 minutes - of the dentist's time and effort plus his assistant. Hell... my mechanic's labor rates are posted at $110/hr. so I'm not complaining about my dentist charging roughly double!

Ah, but now back to the root canals...

Though having gone to medical school and then dental school himself, my new "Careington" dentist told me he wanted me to have a specialist - an endodonist - perform my root canals. Fine! What did I care? As long as we were talking an endodonist who accepted the Careington rate schedule... fine!

Well... well... well... yesterday I saw this particular endodomist. It... did... not... go... well.

All started off well enough. I arrived at her office (in a private home; in-ground pool and all!) a half hour early so as to fill out the paperwork and make a good first impression.

Right on time the hygienist came out to the waiting room to introduce herself and escort me into a procedure room where she took a couple X-Rays (even though they should have already had duplicates of all the pertinent X-Rays my "general" dentist had taken). Next... the doctor came in. She introduced herself. She visually inspected the tooth (#3) she was scheduled to work on that day and, after waving away the X-Rays the hygienist had just taken, she preceded to numb my gum and tooth nerves with local anesthetic - two or three shots I believe. Following this she announced that she and the hygienist would be leaving me alone for five minutes or so while the anesthetic took full effect.

So... here I am... in the chair... twiddling my thumbs... waiting for the doc to come back and start drilling... when in comes one of the front desk ladies - one of the clerical staff. Out of her mouth come the words, "Mr. Barker, I'd just like to discuss billing with you." I nodded. Her next words were, "Today's procedure will be $1,200."

TWELVE... HUNDRED... DOLLARS...

(To remind you, folks, I'd been expecting the Careington rate of $557 maximum.)

I admit... I did not take being told "today's procedure will be $1,200" well. Let's just say... at this point I was... um... "agitated."

I of course started going on about the Careington rates and verifying that the endodonist was indeed a "Careington provider" and the staffer's response was to assure me that I was indeed getting the Careington discount. She told me that absent the Careington discount the procedure would actually run me $1,500. (It seems that when one reads the small print of the Careington agreement, endodonists are "specialists" in the same sense, say, periodontists are; meaning... rather than abide by the scheduled rates a "regular" dentist would charge, they can simply make up their own and then - supposedly - discount their "rack rate" by 20%.)

Folks... I was furious.

At this point rather than argue with the staffer I just excused myself, telling her that I needed to go to my car, grab my cell phone, and call my wife to confer. I called Mary. She too was flabbergasted. From her desktop she brought up the Careington website and confirmed the "small print." (Like they say, folks, the devil is in the details.) She then called our new "general" dentist's office to see if they would be able to do the work in-house, but she couldn't reach the dentist himself immediately. While all this was going on the staffer came out and said that if the endodonist was to do the procedure I needed to come back inside so that she could start and finish before the anesthetic wore off.

Anyway... at this point was totally stressed. Mary didn't know what I should do; I didn't know what I should do; half my face was numb and all I could think of was how were we going to afford four root canals between the two of us at $1,200 a pop - PLUS the necessary crowns?!

After Mary couldn't get hold of our new general dentist we decided to bite the bullet. Since I was there and numb already we decided we'd get this first root canal done there and then - for $1,200. I returned to the chair. The endodonist and hygienist came back in and I was asked "is everything alright now?" My candid response, "no, not really; but what choice do I have?" I then continued, directing myself to the endodonist, "Why did you numb me BEFORE appraising me of the cost; you KNEW I was a "Careington" patient?!" Her reply? "Well, it is the patient's responsibility to know what their insurance covers."

(Nice, huh?)

That did it, folks. I told her point blank that this wasn't the proper and ethical way to do business. Why have the clerical staffer come into the procedure room to talk with the patient prior to the procedure being done in the first place if they felt no responsibility to confirm pricing? Why do so only AFTER the patient has been numbed? Why not have "the billing discussion" before the new patient (in my case a KNOWN "Careington patient") sets foot in a procedure room and sits in the chair? Hmm...?!?! (I believe the answer is pretty obvious.)

I've had root canals before. I know how long they take. We're talking two hours tops! How in God's name does one justify charging (regular rate) $750/hr. or even a "discounted" rate of $600/hr.?

Folks... that's what we're talking! And, folks... that's outrageous! That's insane!

You know what I keep hearing? "That's the going rate, Bill." Yeah. As if that's a justification as opposed to an excuse... a total cop-out. No matter how many people allow themselves to be robbed blind, sheer numbers don't make such behavior acceptable... moral... or ethical.

The individual median American hourly wage is approximately $17.09/hr.

The individual mean American hourly wage is approximately $22.71/hr.

Granted, endodonists are highly skilled professionals. Medical school... dental school... specialized training. They should be highly compensated! But $750/hr.?

SEVEN HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS AN HOUR...?!?!

(Or, heck... even a "mere" $600/hr.?)

I'm sorry, folks, but with all due respect to endodonists... 33-times the individual mean American hourly wage... THIRTY-THREE TIMES... seems a bit... er... excessive to me.

Ten times? Twenty times? $200... $300... even $400/hr. - that seems... justifiable. (But 33-times...?!?!)

Can I "afford" $1,200 for two hours dental work? Sure. (At least in the sense of "do I have the money; can I get my hands on the money?") But that's not the point! The point is that for the long haul any dental service beyond a basic filling or extraction is becoming unaffordable for "regular" people. This is not "cosmetic" surgery. Root canals are not "aesthetic" in nature; they're a procedure designed to save one's tooth!

To those who say "it is what it is" my rejoinder is "well... it shouldn't be." To those who have this misplaced sense of pride towards being able to absorb insane pricing I say to you, "being a dupe and getting ripped off isn't something to be proud of."

Anyway... to end my sad tale... after the endodonist and I had our... er... frank exchange... she said to me, "I can see you're still upset. Perhaps you may want to consider the situation and your options?" I thought about it and... after taking a deep breath... replied, "yes, I think that's best. Let me discuss the matter further with my wife and my general dentist and I'll let you know what I decide. In the meantime let me take care of today's charges for the pre-procedure (which never occurred) numbing."

Folks... anyone wanna guess what I was charged? (And of course at this point I was at the reception desk and the endodonist was in her office with the door closed.) 

I was charged $157.

One hundred and fifty-seven dollars... for X-Rays that shouldn't have been taken in the first place... a numbing that (it turns out) shouldn't have been administered... and of course the perhaps ten minutes total of her actual "services."

I paid it. I didn't argue. Here's the thing, though: I never should have gotten past the reception desk in the first place. They know I was a "Careington Plan" patient - a new "Careington Plan" patient. Pricing should have been outlined up front, not after I had been numbed in preparation for a $1,200 procedure that I had been expecting to pay no more than $557 for.

Notice, folks; except for the Careington Plan I'm not mentioning any names. I'm not noting who this endodonist is; I'm not revealing who my new "general" dentist is. So... keeping this scenario "generic," do any of you reading this wonder what I'm wondering - namely... is this a legal scam of sorts?

Get folks to sign up for the Careington Plan; entice them with low published "general" rates; the catch being that while new members are focused on the procedure cost list they may very well "overlook" the "small print" concerning Careington Plan "specialists" (most commonly endodonists) to whom Careington Plan "general dentists" refer their patients.

Call me a cynic, but, say you're a general dentist that accepts the Careington Plan - indeed you use your acceptance of it as a marketing tool. Patients who follow your advice and sign on see root canal rates ranging from $366 to $557. You of course don't want to do such procedures for such a "low" reimbursement... so... you refer your patients to a Careington Plan endodonist - knowing full well that many Careington Plan members will be focused on the general rate chart (which applies ONLY to "general dentists"), mistakenly believing that the root canal rates advertised apply to the procedure - not the "dentist" per se. (Hell... if I were a real cynic I might even wonder if there were formal kick-backs... "referral fees" involved.)

Oh... and a sweet gig for the "Careington" endodonist as well! They get patients expecting at the very least a "Careington 20% discount" - but these same patients (who again, in many - perhaps most - cases are focused on the SPECIFIED "rate chart" pricing rather than general "20%-60% off" Careington marketing) are put in the endodonist's chair not having the faintest clue as to what "normal endodonist's rate" is being discounted by 20%!

Do I suspect laws were broken? No... not unless you count "moral" law... the "law of ethics."

Could I sue and win? Doubtful. Could I even get the attention of state or federal regulators? Ha! Fat chance. Doctors, dentists, and outfits like Careington no doubt lobby and generously donate to politicians across the ideological and partisan spectrum.

As to Careington...

Again... not to be too cynical... but now that I ponder how this whole thing played out... I find it... um... "interesting"... that while Careington and their member practices aggressively tout their "general dentistry" rate chart (and the prices ARE good; I verified this with a dentist friend of mine prior to signing up)... they don't have a "specialist" rate chart. I mean... think about it; if a rate chart is good for "general" dentists' rates WHY wouldn't the same logic apply to "specialist" dentists' rates?

Ah... questions...

What are my options at this point? Well, I spoke to one of the staff at my "general" dentist's office last night. "My" dentist wasn't in, so I laid out my experiences and concerns with the staffer and asked her to relay them to the dentist and have him to give me a call. In short... I want one of the dentists at my "general" practice to perform the necessary root canal for $557. Hopefully either "my" dentist or his boss (the principal dentist of the practice) will agree. If not... I don't know what I'll do.

Four root canals between my wife and I. Four crowns. Not that over $1,000 per tooth (all said and done) isn't expensive, but we can bear four or five grand over the next year or so; but if we're talking eight thousand... nine thousand... ten thousand... that's simply unaffordable... and frankly... unjustifiable.