A (new) picture is worth 800 words

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Taken well over a year ago, and obviously with no planning, my current column photograph is the subject of much negative feedback from readers. Never short of negative feedback, I don’t always agree with all of you, but when you’re right, you’re right.

The picture in question was snapped on a Sunday afternoon, in a mug-shot-on-the-spot, undisclosed location. Ironically, the photographer who took it did me a favor. He was on assignment for another paper when I asked him to snap it. Being a former work associate, as well as intrigued by the freelance insta-cash, he agreed.

We all know an artist is only as good as his subject matter and, that day, I would have rather changed the subject all together. That, or beg for a bit of photoshopping, airbrushing and a professional model stand-in.

Here’s how it all came about: Intrigued by the possibility of spreading Dishin’ That statewide, I had long been badgering the Sun Media/Forecaster group to pick up the column, which had a different name. Forecaster editor, Mo Mehlsak, always fun to talk to, was genuinely interested. However, he did not come up with sensitive, creative or thought-provoking ways to say no. Like Nancy Reagan (may she rest in peace), he just said no.

Then, one day, the Forecaster posted a full-time job that I most definitely did not want. It was sales, which meant being tied to a desk and stuck in an office. Just a few of all the things I swore I’d never do again. How would I be able to keep working in a restaurant? Were Danskos and the same pair of black pants acceptable?

But Mo said there may be a way to intertwine the column, so I followed the carrot and had an interview the next week.

As suspected, the job description and hourly rate made my skin crawl. But, the Sun Media benefits package is seriously outstanding, and there was an incentive plan in place to rack up more money. I immediately became enamoured with Forecaster publisher, Karen Wood, who would be my other boss.

Mo and Karen agreed to flexible hours that would allow time for writing and restaurant work, and informally offered me the job on the spot. Understanding I love the restaurant world, and that being in it is crucial to column street credibility, they asked me to think about it over the weekend.

As fate would have it, I came home from the Forecaster interview to a really sharp, glamorous restaurant marketing job offer from someone I had known for years. It was based out of Las Vegas and was bells and whistles, travel and big bucks. A great career step by any server’s standards.

But, I’ve paid my dues to corporate America. There would be no column, no Portland in summer, and no Blue Eyed Yankees Fan. My girls, Number One and CarlyKardashian, were both in college, Bad Dog was still residing with me and I was torn. Plus, my parents, The Betty and Roger, are located on the east coast of God’s Waiting Room and The Betty is no spring chicken.

Calling for an emergency session of my Restaurant Creative Consulting Team, we met for Sunday brunch at Sam’s on Forest Avenue, overlooking beautiful Morrill’s Corner. Home of the five cent mimosa, there was no better place for us to gather and contemplate my next move. Leaving Sam’s a few hours later with no clear-cut decision, I did have lots of support and a decent buzz.

Not much later, I opted to stay in Maine. Being close to The Betty (and other pressing personal reasons), were the deal breakers. I’m proud of the decision to choose my true passion over money, but temporarily lose that point of view when the bills roll in and the plow guy comes twice in one day.

Fast forward to a year later, and I should also report that the Forecaster job has morphed into “special projects” and what I consider customer service, rather than sales.

I also think we are all in agreement that I need a new photo for Dishin’ That.

That determined, next week a new and improved picture will appear here. My readers will be asked to guess where the shot was taken (It will be in a restaurant or bar somewhere in Cumberland County, with a few hints dropped to help in the guessing process). There will be a prize for whoever guesses the exact location first.

Having played the “Where’s Natalie?” game before, it was entertaining for all. I’m looking forward to the guesses and to giving my readers one less thing to complain about and one more thing to be part of.

Peas & Q’s: Like the column itself, Peas & Q’s will be back next week.

Natalie Ladd lives in Portland. When not pecking away, she can be found serving the masses at a busy eatery, or tirelessly conducting happy-hour field research. Hospitality questions or comments should be sent to nladd@theforecaster.net, and may be featured in a future column. Follow Natalie on Twitter: @Nhladd.