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Jinkies! When faced with complete absurdity, what is a parent to do, Velma? After all, your child talks intimately to Elmo and only vaguely approves of gravity. You don't want to quash a normal fantasy life, but you want a responsible skeptic --- not someone who argues for the sake of argument, but someone who is comfortable evaluating his world's veracity. Sure, he'll question your statements to bits as a teenager, but you also want him to challenge everything from the National Enquirer to the Pope and the Surgeon General. Sometimes the world throws parents a Scooby snack of support, as in Fred, Shaggy, and Encyclopedia Brown (a.k.a. the Three Wise Guys).
Scooby-Doo is actually pretty cool. The show debuted in 1969 as a mixture of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis and I Love A Mystery. The ensuing generations who looked forward to Saturday mornings as cartoon time also learned that the world is not always as presented by those in authority. And absurdity is revealed as absurdity when you strip away the glowing paint and flippers.
For that matter, Leroy "Encyclopedia" Brown is also pretty cool. ("You thieving, lying crook! You should be elected president so you can grant yourself a pardon," from The Case of Bug's Zebra.) Created in 1963 by Donald J. Sobol, the boy detective always throws the case back out to the reader for a solution. And the truth is out there.
Both Scooby and Encyclopedia Brown have gone through numerous updates, but the essential message has gone unchanged. At least part of the secret of their longevity is that pursuit of the truth is its own reward.
--- Craig Brownlie
Ever since that reporter from Toronto described Rochester as a cultural wasteland populated by Garbage Plate-swilling thugs, my son has longed to join the throngs at Nick Tahou's.
So when he turned 13 last week, my husband and I grabbed a couple relatives and headed to the original location at 320 West Main Street. We told the birthday boy to enjoy it, because it's as close to having a bar mitzvah as he's gonna get.
After carefully weighing the Garbage Plate options with a level of scrutiny typically reserved for video game selections, my son settled on two cheeseburgers, home fries, mac salad, and baked beans smothered in chopped onions, mustard, and hot sauce for $6. Dinner for five, including sodas and a souvenir t-shirt, came to $39.50. At those prices, we might even be able to afford to send him to college someday.
When he came up for air about a third of the way through his Garbage Plate, my son was heard to exclaim, "It's good! It's really good. Oh, man, I just can't stop eating it!"
Apparently, plenty of kids agree with his assessment. There's a whole wall full of smiling little faces plastered up by the door. Many of them are the children of longtime customers, according to Bobbie, the assistant manager. Some have dined at Nick Tahou's on a regular basis practically since birth.
Once Bobbie found out it was my kid's birthday, she pulled out all the stops. On the way out the door, she let both my kids take an extra piece of candy from the restaurant's kiddie candy box. Just because you're 13 doesn't mean you stop liking Dum-Dums.
--- Linda Kostin