Notes & asides: Dining out, ‘The Sopranos’ and Brett Favre


My wife’s birthday fell on Thursday last week, and we celebrated by going to a restaurant near our home in Apple Valley. Linda had had her eye on the place for a while, and when we checked out the website the menu suggested it was home to interesting American cuisine and the photographs of sedate lighting and white linen tablecloths bespoke an ambience of warmth and good taste.
The restaurant lived up to its promise, but if there was a downside, it was most of the other diners.
This was a special occasion, so we purposefully chose the place over, say, an inexpensive “family-style” restaurant or an amped-up sports bar with the 360-degree TV motif. But you would never have guessed there was a difference from the apparel worn by most of the other patrons. Blue jeans (the scruffier the better), tank tops, T-shirts, flip-flops, cutoffs, sweat shirts — you get the picture. I’m surprised I didn’t see some pinhead wearing a baseball cap backwards.

I recall the episode of “The Sopranos” in which Tony took Carmella to an elegant restaurant and, after being seated by a nervously unctuous waiter, Tony spotted a slovenly dressed dimwit sitting at another table wearing a baseball cap backwards. It was bad enough that the imbecile didn’t know enough to remove his hat indoors, but the effrontery was compounded by the manner in which the hat was worn.

The tableaux was made even more outlandish for the lovely way in which the trog’s date was dressed.

My heart raced at the thought of Tony ordering a hit (to me, a mercy killing) on the fool, but after some words were exchanged and the offending diner removed the symbol of his boorishness, Tony magnanimously sent a bottle of wine to the clod’s table.

Restaurants aren’t the only places where bad manners are on conspicuous display. It’s everywhere these days. Places of business more often resemble high-school parking lots than sites of serious work, and even many churches on Sunday look like the congregants were headed to a Twins game and mistakenly took a wrong turn.

My point is that the way one dresses reflects the respect one has for one’s self and the company one keeps, as well as the work in which one is engaged. If nothing is deemed important enough to dress for the occasion, how very banal and monochromatic life will be.

* * *

Would somebody please give Brett Favre a dictionary with the page bearing the definition of “dignity” clearly marked. He seems to have misplaced his several years ago.

* * *

The hottest news video of the week is the Tasing of an elderly woman west of Austin, Texas, by a sheriff’s deputy. The incident was everywhere on the tube, but it seems to have been on a loop at Fox News, CNN, MSNBC and Headline News.

Kathryn Winkfein apparently was going 60 miles per hour in a 45 mph zone in Marble Fall, 50 miles west of Austin, when she was pulled over in her white pickup truck by Travis County Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Bieze. A dashboard video camera on Bieze’s cruiser caught the action.

Winkfein not only refused to sign the ticket Bieze issued, but she became verbally abusive. The deputy even had to push her off the road so she apparently wouldn’t be struck by traffic.

Winkfein went ballistic. “You’re gonna shove a 72-year-old woman,” she said angrily, according to the Associated Press.

“If you don’t step back, you’re going to get Tased,” Bieze yelled back.

“Go ahead, Tase me,” Winkfein said. “I dare you.”

That’s exactly what Bieze did.

Not content to have the diminutive great-grandmother on the ground, the deputy yelled: “Put your hands behind your back or you’re going to be Tased again.”

She didn’t comply. Zap! He nailed her yet again.

Winkfein has been charged with resisting arrest, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and fines up to $4,000.

She said she’s hired a lawyer. Good.

What is so appalling about this episode is that the hulking deputy believed he was unable to control the septuagenarian, obstreperous though she may have been, without using potentially deadly force against her. The disparity in the sizes of the two, not to mention the training Bieze ostensibly received, would have suggested that this incident should have been resolved in a more civilized manner.

Law enforcement is one of the few growth industries in our increasingly policed society. It is clear from this incident, and an alarming number like them, that the use of force is not always the last resort.

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Comments (10)

  1. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 06/11/2009 - 10:58 am.

    Well, since the writer is so concerned with being correct in all things, I am unable to resist remarking that ‘tableaux’ is plural and he plainly had in mind only one ‘tableau.’

    Had our French on backwards, did we?

  2. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 06/11/2009 - 12:21 pm.

    I agree that much of America doesn’t know how to dress appropriately. Dressing appropriately is one of the six things that make up class in America, along with education, susceptibility to media hype, ability to speak, tolerance of others and a person’s interest in NASCAR. However, I don’t consider a person’s tolerance of others dress styles a matter of liberal or conservative, which is the gist of the column, as one of age. Ultracasual dress, as we might call it, offends people who grew up in the conformity of the 1940s and 50s more than it does someone younger. If Bonafield is implying that poorly dressed people are all liberals in some way, that certainly couldn’t be proved in Anoka County, where I live. The number of poorly dressed people is quite high, but it’s quotient of liberals is so low that Michele Bachmann barely bothers to campaign here.

  3. Submitted by Gregory Stricherz on 06/11/2009 - 02:43 pm.

    I didn’t get the impression from Mr. Bonafield’s piece that he thought his fellow diners were liberals. I voted for Cynthia McKinney and I also find such dress disturbing. I remember a few years ago going to the Southdale branch of the Hennepin County Government offices on a Wednesday. People working there were wearing t-shirts, jeans and the like. A sign on the wall proclaimed that Friday was their Casual Day. I never went back on Friday to find out exactly what constituted their casual.

  4. Submitted by Michael Menege on 06/11/2009 - 08:36 pm.

    I agree with you on the general lack of sartorial taste in folks when in public.

    I refuse to comment on a certain quarterback.

    I disagree with you on the trooper and the senior citizen he pulled over. She was very belligerent and refused to listen to him. Yes, he was ‘hulking’ in comparison to her. If he had physically restrained her, the odds of her being injured would have greatly increased.

    If the lawyer she hired is any good, he’ll be working on a plea bargain this very moment. The video footage makes it clear that the trooper responded in the proper manner. You left out the fact that she tried to push by him and get back in her truck.

    Being a 72-year-old woman does not give you the right to disregard the law and those who enforce it.

  5. Submitted by Andrew Zabilla on 06/12/2009 - 12:31 am.

    You know, I wear dress clothes for work: Dress shirt, black slacks, tie, dress shoes. When I’m not working, I’m perfectly happy in jeans and a t-shirt. One thing that makes me happy about being in MN versus the South is that I can go to a nice restaurant wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Is there really a need for me to be so narcissistic that I have to dress up to have steak and lobster? Do I really need to impress fellow diners with impeccable clothing choices? I thought Minnesotans were deeper than judging someone based on the clothes that they are wearing. Perhaps I was wrong. Isn’t the $60+ a plate I’m dropping for dinner enough to impress you?

    If someone were loud and obnoxious and it had interrupted your dinner, that would be one reason to be upset, but to be upset just because they weren’t wearing the clothes that you wanted them to? Really? If in this world full of wars, poverty and strife all that you can complain about is the way that someone is dressed, then you might want to open your eyes and look beyond the end of your nose. Try visiting a country with abject poverty for a while and then come back and tell me how important it is for me to dress to impress you when I shell out my hard-earned money for dinner.

  6. Submitted by Joshua Abell on 06/12/2009 - 10:25 am.

    Mr. Bonafield, perhaps you could learn to look beyond the surface, and realize that this is a sign of progress and affluence. Everybody in America is fabulously wealthy (compared to most of the population of the world) so elaborate clothing should no longer divide us.

    As for the tazing incident, how would you handle a belligerent old lady who refuses to listen? Just let her drive off?

  7. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 06/16/2009 - 11:36 pm.

    I’m amazed to be agreeing with a conservative columnist. I think someone should go see if they need any road salt in hell.

    I agree with Jeremy Powers on the matter of dress codes. I have teenage nieces and nephews, and a couple of years ago, we showed slides of a family trip to Europe in 1967 at a holiday gathering. The teens were amazed at how “formally” we were dressed. I was wearing skirts! My brothers were wearing long pants with belts and shirts with buttons and collars–in every picture! Of course, those were considered everyday school clothes in 1967, but I realized that I’d never seen my nephews even THAT dressed up.

    My own politics are quite left-wing (I think Barack Obama is too centrist), and I don’t see standards of dress as a right-wing or left-wing concern, either. It’s a matter of showing respect to people and places. When the hippies adopted eccentric dress, it was precisely to be provocative and cheeky, and they attempted to show some fashion flair.

    Now with masses of people always going around looking as if they think they’re at the gym, what was once a daring fashion statement has become lazy mediocrity.

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