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By Mike Hudson

I've been in a lot of crummy restaurants over the years. In fact, I've been in a lot of crummy restaurants that served surprisingly good food.

Once, while hitchhiking across the Sonoran Desert in West Texas on a dark spring night back in '73, I saw a little light up ahead and made my way toward it. It was a small Mexican cantina, like you might have if you opened your house, and after examining the bill of fare and my wallet I found I had exactly enough for a tequila, an order of refried beans and a cup of coffee. I'd never had refried beans before, and they served them with fresh-baked tortillas. I was hungry, and thought I'd died and gone to heaven.

It was a crummy restaurant, sure. Like I said before, it wasn't even so much of a restaurant as it was the living room of somebody's house. It's probably not there anymore, and I don't remember the name of it, but if it was and if I did, I'd recommend it heartily.

Applebee's is a different matter. I've been to the one in Niagara Falls and to another one down in Wytheville, Va. They were both horrible. I mentioned to Bruce that I might write about how horrible Applebee's is and he recounted his one experience eating there, at the location out on Military Road.

"It was filthy," he said. "They were busy, and we were seated at a table with half-eaten food all around on the floor. I'll never go back."

The Military Road shop has a "sports" motif. The Redhead and I were directed to a booth. Less than six inches from my head, an ancient sneaker had been screwed into the wall. Somebody's smelly footwear was apparently meant to entice me to select from the severely limited menu.

A couple of weeks ago, down in Virginia, I had my second brush with Applebee's. Rather than asking us what we might like to drink, the waiter instead sought our opinions about the chairs at a nearby table.

"Just got them in today," he said. "I took one of the old ones home and use it for my computer."

Fascinating, I thought. "Them's real nice chairs," I said.

Nice turnout at the LaSalle Yacht Club last week for Town of Tonawanda Judge Frank Caruso, who has announced his candidacy for state Supreme Court Justice.

Caruso seems to enjoy bi-partisan support, and Mayor Vince Anello, City Administrator Danny Bristol, Erie County Legislator Chuck Swanick and former state Sen. Al Coppola were among the luminaries in attendance.

The party, organized by Tonawanda Republican Chairman Andy Sedita, served its purpose of raising Caruso's profile beyond his home bailiwick.

Finally, for everyone -- including writers and editors at that other paper -- who thought the burgeoning scandal at the Parkway Condominiums amounted to little more than a tempest in a teapot, here's a news flash.

Niagara County District Attorney Matt Murphy has launched an investigation into the possible misappropriation of funds by employees of the posh condo. Sources close to the investigation told the Reporter that the case is expected to go before a grand jury and that indictments are likely.

Since the Reporter broke the story back in February, Judith Dale has been fired from her position as manager of the Parkway, the entire condo board of directors, including casino kingpin Mickey Brown, has been voted out of office, a forensic accountant has been brought in to go over the books and no fewer than six lawsuits have been filed in connection with the case.

The building's owners have since hired Fairwood Management of Buffalo to oversee the day-to-day operations of the swank condo.

Dale, who has been linked romantically with Brown and had at least two blood relatives serving on the ousted board, has been the focal point of the controversy. She has initiated a lawsuit for wrongful termination and sued a number of Parkway owners, alleging they circulated rumors she was "on drugs," "had an abortion," was "embezzling money" and that she was "irresponsible, immoral and/or criminal," court records show.

I don't know from irresponsible or immoral, but if there was anything criminal going on at the Parkway, you can bet your bottom dollar that Matt Murphy and the talented team of investigators he's assembled will uncover it.

Here's a helpful hint for our friends over at the Gazette. When the indictments come down, just act like you were on top of the story all along.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com May 25 2004