Sunday, November 30, 2014

Upward Angle of a Boston Tail

The tail section of a gondola in Boston, set against a clear blue sky.

Each year, the folks at Gondola di Venezia haul out their two beautiful Venice-built boats for winter.
They spend most of the cold season in an enclosure, but I was able to visit them after haul-out, and before they were moved into their winter home.

Normally it would only be possible to get a shot from this angle by standing
(or swimming) in the water, but I had lucky timing.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Twilight Reflections


On the eve of the U.S. Gondola Nationals,
some of us out-of-towners showed up at the dock
to catch up with our friends from Providence at La Gondola

We enjoyed watching the way their operation ran and getting to know their waterway and the boats we'd be rowing for the next couple of days.

Here we see the "Cynthia Julia" at rest in the latter part of twilight.
Fall leaves float by, and the reflections of downtown buildings can be seen on the surface of the water and the deck.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving from the Gondola Blog

photo by Cassandra Mohr

Thanksgiving is such a great holiday.
We gather together, both family and friends.
We set aside time to give thanks for all that we've been blessed with.
I have so much to be thankful for, including the many great friends I've been fortunate to have in the gondola business.
Thank you for reading, dear friends,
and have a happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tim Jones Rows with Row Venice

My friend Tim Jones has contributed many great photos to the Gondola Blog.
He also had the opportunity to row in Venice on board one of the Row Venice boats.

Here's his story:

Our RowVenice Experience
by Tim Jones

I first went to Venice in 2001 on a trip with my family.  
We were doing a tour of Italy and went to 10 different cities in about 14 days.
It was a whirlwind experience where I really only got a brief sample of each city. Venice was, unfortunately, only a day trip.  
I saw the major sites like St. Mark's square and the Bridge of Sighs and of course my first gondola ride.  
I remembered thinking as we turned down a quiet canal away from hustle of craziness of St. Mark's just how beautiful and peaceful it was back there.  
We quietly drifted under bridges and past old wooden doors to the sound of the gondola oar gently splashing into the water as we went.  
For 11 years after that I vividly remembered those narrow alleyways and I desperately wanted to go back one day and just get lost back there.  
Finally, in 2012 I took my girlfriend (Dana) (who had never been to Europe) to Italy.  I fondly remembered all the cities we saw back in 2001 and I wanted her to get to see all of them as well...So we extended the length of that trip to 20 days and we spent at least 3-4 days in each of those cities.  
Venice was our favorite place though.  
Again we took a quiet gondola ride through the canals.  
Our gondolier sang a beautiful song while he rowed (which we didn't even ask for, but tipped heavily for later because it was amazing).  Somehow he seemed to row us down the most beautiful and completely deserted canals.  
Maybe I was just in the moment, but I don't recall even seeing more than a couple other boats and not a single other gondola.  
It was this experience that sparked my desire to one day row one of these boats down the canals for myself.

After the 2012 trip we both said we wanted to go back, but that before we did we would take 5 to 7 years and visit other places in between.  
Well....2 years later we couldn't stand it anymore and decided to go back.  
This time putting 10 days in our schedule just for Venice.  I immediately set out looking for a way that I could get to row a boat while I was there.  
A quick search later and I found www.rowvenice.com.  
Dana wasn't sold on the idea at first, and even some of our friends gave us funny looks when I told them we were going to learn to row while we were there.  But I didn't care, I really wanted to do this.  
The day finally came and we met up with our instructor (Jane). 
 She took us to her boat (a beautiful Batela).  We started off learning the basics with Jane in the back while I rowed from the front of the boat.  
We turned out of the harbor on the north side of Venice down a quiet and fairly wide open canal with little traffic.  Rowing from the front was not particularly difficult.  I have lots of rowing experience from my childhood.  
My family owned a sail boat and we sailed around the great lakes of Michigan every summer while I was growing up.  Dana also had no trouble getting the hang of rowing either, and she had almost no prior experience.  
We switched off taking turns rowing from the front a couple times while Jane instructed us.  After about 1/3 of our lesson, Jane told me that she thought I should come to the back and row.  

 
 
 

I climbed onto the back and took position.  She explained how I was supposed to steer by turning the oar just so and allowing it to drag in the water to pull the front of the boat back around.  I'd always ever rowed with two oars so this was a little complicated at first.  I quickly learned that if you drag the oar too hard it has a tendency to want to pull you right back into the passenger area of the boat.  Fortunately, I caught my balance before I tumbled forward into the boat.  For a little while Jane rowed in the front helping to provide some forward momentum.  When I started getting the hang of it she quit rowing and just sat back with Dana while I rowed all by myself.  This first canal was a bit of a work out for me.  I was paddling upstream and it was a little hard to keep the boats forward momentum going.  If you don't have forward momentum it becomes quite a challenge to steer the boat.  I did have one mishap where I bumped a wooden pylon, but fortunately it wasn't a very hard bump.  We reached the end of the canal,  turned around another corner and started back down a different canal.  
This canal was more narrow and had a little bit of traffic on it.  
It was shaded from the sun by the taller buidings and the current was now helping me and the whole experience became easier.  
It was a cooler, more beautiful canal and was just the type of canal I had been dreaming of rowing down the past couple years.  
Buy this time I was getting a good handle on the boat.  
I felt in control and Jane had quit giving me instructions and was just chatting with us while we glided down the canal.  
I remember seeing my first low stone bridge coming up.  Not too far beyond it was another boat we were going to have to pass closely by as well.  
It was time to see if I really could handle this boat.  
I drifted to the left as I approached the bridge knowing that a little ways past it I'd have to pass another boat.  This meant I had to duck down a little more than I would have wanted to in order to make it under the bridge, but I made it. Didn't hit anything or scrape the sides.  
We were now starting to get close to the other boat.  I got as far to the left as I could.  Both Dana and Jane got quiet as we approached.  I remember the local man looking at our boat, looking at the two girls sitting quietly together and then up at me.  As we passed by he gave a little wave and said "Ciao" and I replied back to him the same.  Jane told me that its very rare that locals will acknowledge outsiders rowing their canals.  
I don't know if that's true or not, but it made me feel like a million dollars.  
We were getting close to the marina again and the end of our lesson.  
Jane took control of the boat as we were getting close to a very high traffic area.  She said we were her last lesson of the day and she wanted us to experience the grand canal.  Dana took the front position and Jane took the back.  We headed down a busy canal and popped out onto the grand canal.  Vaporetto were whizzing by and Dana nearly lost her balance and went for a swim once as wake bounced her sideways.  But there we were, rowing the Grand Canal.  It was pretty intense and I could tell Dana was a little overwhelmed by it but she was doing great.  We didn't spend long on the grand canal and turned and headed back to the marina and the end of our lesson.  After we began walking back towards the center of town looking for a place to grab some dinner we were talking about our favorite moments of the whole experience.  I was totally exhilarated by my experience rowing that quiet canal, just the way I had hoped it would be for the past two years, and Dana, several times over the next few days bursting out from quiet moments with
"I can't believe it....I rowed down the Grand Canal!!!"
We are definitely doing this again the next time we are back to Venice.

video
 
My sincere thanks to Tim for the above story, photos, and video.
To read more about Row Venice, visit their website http://rowvenice.org/

For further reading within the Gondola Blog, check out
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
photo by Nan McElroy

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Look Ma', No Hands!

photo by Isabella Mohr
 
Yes, this was taken during an actual cruise.
And yes, I do have a good dental plan.
 

Tandem Distance - the Brothers Haynes

photo by John Kerschbaum

On October 26th, on a cool and windy afternoon in Providence, Rhode Island, the participants in the 2014 U.S. Gondola Nationals raced in the final racing event of the competition - the Tandem Distance race.
 
THE COURSE
The race was supposed to follow the same route that had been used in the Solo Distance race, but the winds had increased.  To avoid having gondolas bouncing and grinding against walls and bridges in those tight quarters, 
it was decided that the two-man distance event would remain in the lower part of the channel.
 
This was a timetrial event - so rowers had nobody to measure their speed against.
The distance of the race was just over two miles.
Like the sprint events, the timekeeper started the clock as the ferro of the gondola emerged from the Crawford Street bridge.
Two-man teams rowed down to the foundations of the old Route 195 bridge, with the wind at their backs, turning around or beyond one of the remaining foundations.  Next it was a fight against the wind back up to the Crawford Street bridge, passing under to turn and re-emerge to do the same down-and-back a second time.

Gondola racing in New England in the Fall.
 
STRATEGY
It became obvious early on that the biggest enemy to gondoliers on this course was the headwind we fought against while returning from the old Route 195 foundations.  Many teams sought refuge by hugging the wall to their left, as there was sometimes a wind-shadow there. Finding a good stroke synchronization and making the best and tightest turns were also important.
 
POLE VAULTING
As this was a tandem race, finding the right partner to row with was of great importance.
While describing the camaraderie between gondoliers, I've often told people "nobody understands you, and that weird thing you do,
like someone who does that weird thing too."
People who aren't gondoliers just don't understand sometimes.
I suppose it might be comparable to pole vaulting.
Sure, we've all seen it done, but until you've actually experienced it;
until you've run, planted, and then been flung into the sky by a 15 foot pole, you'll never be able to truly understand it from a vaulter's perspective.
 
As a gondolier, nobody understands you as well as another gondolier...
unless, of course, you have a brother who is a gondolier.
That guy gets you.
Want to find someone who will mesh well in a tandem row?
He's the guy.
 
HAYNES x2
Their names are Matthew and Alexander Haynes.
On the gondola they are known as "Marcello" and Alessandro".
They were born a couple of years apart - Matt's 35, Alex is 33.
Both played a lot of soccer growing up, then later on Alex was a wrestler and Matt got into traditional rowing in college
(yeah, the kind where you sit on your butt and pull).

A year later Matt found an amazing summer job and became a gondolier at La Gondola in Providence, Rhode Island - he ended up buying the business years later from the previous owner and, like many of us gondola operators, has truly found his calling.

Two years ago, Matt dreamed up and brought to life the very first gondola competition in North America - the GondOlympics.

This year Matt and his brother Alex competed against each other in other races, and they both did well.  Their Tandem Sprint run was excellent too, but when they got on the boat together for a distance race, they were unbeatable.

photo by John Kerschbaum

They grew up in the same house, and sure, there were sibling rivalries, but Matt explained to me that because they were two years apart, they were never able to compete in the same league, much less on the same team.
Matt said:
"I was thrilled to get the opportunity to race with Alex.

We were never able to just be athletic together and see how far the two of us could challenge each other."

They were both gondoliers, but didn't get much training for this race.
Both are married and have young children at home, both have day jobs,

and then there was all that planning and preparation Matt had to take care of just to bring this event to life.
Alex told me:
"My brother and I hadn’t really rowed much together.  We’d said we wanted to get out there and train but never really trained for it."

He added
"When I got there I wasn’t sure what we were gonna do,
except go out there and row." 

Last year, at the U.S. Gondola Nationals in Huntington Harbour, I heard about Matt's brother Alex, and how it was a shame he couldn't make it.  Those who knew him were sure he would've been a strong contender.

 

Indeed, Alex took third place in the Solo Distance race.

When these two brothers rowed together in the Tandem Sprint, they finished in second place.

 

So what was it that this team had on their side to take second in the sprint event, and then finish ahead of everyone in the Tandem Distance?
 
Based on my conversations with both men, and having been there to see the race go down, I believe the Brothers Haynes had several things going for them.
 
     1. Brotherhood
Like I said, nobody knows you like your brother,
and if he rows (and you can stand each other),
he's the guy you want on the boat with you.
photo by John Kerschbaum
 
     2. Form
In a post-race interview, Matt stressed to me how important it was to have, and maintain good form throughout the race.
"Form wins a race", he said.  This was a discipline he had carried over from his traditional rowing back in college.
Matthew Haynes - pushing hard and maintaining form.
photo by John Kerschbaum
 
     3. Turns
"In addition to that, there’s the other crew element – we were going to row it as a focused race, setting up the turns together"
From Formula 1 to gondolas, races are won or lost based on how well you did in the turns.
Alex told me:
"The turns were what we really focused on.
The turns were what I really wanted to improve on from the first GondOlympics.
We were inches from the objects we were turning around."
 

video
The "top turn" under the Crawford Street" bridge.

     4. "Tens"
Traditional rowing may seem opposite from Venetian rowing, but as we can see, there are some things that translate well.  And then there's a little focusing trick Matt took with him when he stepped out of his college boat: "power tens".
As Matt explained to me: "where you're pushing as hard as you can,
but then take it to another level - two strokes to warm up,
and then counting to ten with power strokes."
Matt served as a sort of coxswain up front. Alex said:
"He kept counting to ten.  That little focus method made the difference".
During their second approach to the dock, I walked down to the wall that they were passing. 
I snapped this image with my phone.
The guys were so close I could hear them breath. 


I heard them counting to ten, in between counts their breathing told me that they were rowing at maximum capacity.
I stood there in my orange jacket and they didn't even notice me. 
Obviously the focus trick worked.
Looking back, Matt told me:
"I remember very little of the race - except that we were racing."

     5. Poseidon
Matt has a nickname among his fellow gondoliers in Providence.
Two years ago, when everyone was competing in the GondOlympics,
the winds were a real challenge.  When it was time for Matt to take his turn, he stepped on the gondola, rowed out to the starting line, and the winds and the water all mysteriously went calm - allowing him to row with an extra competitive edge.
For that reason, Matt is also known as "Poseidon's Illegitimate Son".

I can't speak to his true lineage, and unfortunately I wasn't able to be there to witness his run two years ago.

There are two statements I can make though:
first, it did seem less windy during Matt and Alex's run this year.
Secondly, it was windy as HECK during my run with John Kerschbaum.
I have no basis for comparison here, because I wasn't on the boat during other runs, but based on the treatment John and I received from the wind,
I had to wonder if Poseidon or some other force associated with wind...hated us that day.

     6. Frustration
As it was for many competitors, I think the guys on this boat were a little frustrated after watching a certain San Diego rower take first place in everything...including the slalom.
This was the last race, the last chance to blow it all out, empty the gas tank and leave it all out there on the water.
Alex tells me that Matt said: 
“all I want you to do is stand on the back and push”.

This was it, the race for all the marbles.
All the hopes and pains, all the inspiration, frustration,
dedication and even retaliation went into one race.

Two brothers on one boat,
rowing their hardest while counting to ten - again and again.

Throughout the race, they had no idea how they were doing - no idea if their run was even worthy of the top three.  It was a true case of "be the best you can be".

They pushed harder than either of them thought they could.
Alex said:
"We left it all out on the water.
I couldn't stand up after that race.
My ribs were sore for three days afterwards."
Alex Haynes in full "battle mode"
photo by John Kerschbaum

It had been a good ten years since Matt had competed in traditional rowing, and yet some of his greatest advantages were borne out of those days of rowing crew in college.
The sense of accomplishment could be seen in their faces as they finished the battle - against the wind, the water, the clock, and themselves.
They had given it their absolute all.  Regardless of how the times stacked up, we all knew how hard they'd rowed, and respect was in the air.

photo by John Kerschbaum

As it ended up, the two sons of Jackie and Ed Haynes finished in first place, and wore gold medals that night.

My sincerest congratulations to Matt and Alex; for rowing an excellent race,
and showing everyone how it's done.

video
The final push towards the finish line.
 
Tandem Distance - complete results
Place  Name                                      Origin                             Time
1.     Alexander “Alessandro” Haynes  Providence, RI                  16:32.27
        Matthew “Marcello” Haynes        Providence, RI

2.       Eric “Enrico” Bender                 San Diego, CA                   17:13.70
        Cole “Colombo” Hanson            San Diego, CA

3.     Richard “Ricardo” Corbaley         Huntington Beach, CA       17:17.43

        Tim “Bepi” Reinard                    Huntington Beach, CA   

  4.     John “Giovanni” Kerschbaum       Stillwater, MN                  17:41.40
        “Gondola Greg” Mohr                  Newport Beach, CA

5.     Adam “Ivano” Alves                    Providence, RI                 19:01.75
         Tim “Amadeo” Coffey                 Providence, RI

 6.     Greg “Rafaello” Coffey                 Providence, RI                 21:56.06
        William “Alberto” Oberg               Providence, RI


 

 



Thursday, November 20, 2014

Team Effort

photo by John Kerschbaum

Ivano and Amadeo of La Gondola in Providence, RI power through the Distance Tandem course during the 2014 U.S. Gondola Nationals.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Just the Photo - Phoenix in the Fall

photo by Candace Benson
 
A shot of my gondola The Phoenix here in Newport Beach.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Friday Night Done Right


On the eve of the U.S. Gondola Nationals, a few of us out-of-towners
showed up at the docks in Providence and spent some time visiting with our friends from La Gondola and getting acquainted with the boats we'd be competing on in the following two days.

Here's a shot of Richard Corbaley of Sunset Gondola heading out on a
passenger cruise with Adam “Ivano” Alves supervising
(yes, I did post this photo previously, but it's just such a great image that it deserves it's own post).

Friday, November 14, 2014

Gimme 20 Seconds

I don't allow paid advertising here on the Gondola Blog.
I don't ask anything of you, my beloved readers, but your curiosity,
as I post news, musings, and random and relevant photos.

Now I'm asking for about twenty seconds of your time.
My Daughter is "Moxy" of Moxy and the Influence.
She sang the national anthem at last year's U.S. Gondola Nationals,
and if I may say so - she rocks!

The band is in a contest to have one of their songs used in an upcoming movie.
All I need is a small effort and about twenty seconds of your time.
Another competitor is getting dangerously close to beating Moxy, so if you would be so kind, simply click on the link and like the post. https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=588379477955880&id=335731836553980

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ridiculous Yelping


Kansas City
I recently discovered a funny and yet disturbing story about a ridiculous Yelp review and the response it received.
Funny, because of the way the business owner responded to it.
Disturbing, because of the way the reviewer saw things.  
Quite obviously, the reviewer and her husband feel that the universe revolves around them, and they are the "magnificent exceptions".
Woman Leaves Bad Online Review, 
The Owner Finds Out And Responds

If that link doesn't work, try this one:
http://themetapicture.com/woman-leaves-bad-online-review/

These folks clearly hadn't even checked to see if their requests were within the restaurant's guidelines.  As I was reading this account, it became clear that they wanted what they wanted, and that was that.
A sort of "don't bother me with the facts" mindset.

In dealing with a business, it seems that there are two ways that reviewers look at things:
"I'll check out their product or experience and receive it in the way the proprietor intends it."
Or - "I'll walk in, act like I own the place, and tell everyone working there how to do their jobs."

Yes, I do realize that I'm painting with a big brush here, 
but hyperbole is the best tool to make my point.
There are some Yelpers out there who seem to only speak in hyperbole.

Mr. Feng Shui
Recently we had a review that reminded me of this.
The client had come in with obvious visions of how our business should be, and was so focused on his own ideas...that he missed the experience we'd prepared for him.

He began his review by telling us (and the rest of the world) that we needed a cushy waiting area.
have a receiving / reception area where you can wait for your gondola; leather love seats with some feng shui (trickling water, fountain, nice foliage, maybe calming music, and magazines to read).

Mhmm, I'll get right on it.
For over twenty years we've had our gondoliers meet their passengers on the dock.  This allows them to make sure that any surprises go off without a hitch.  
Put your unsuspecting loved one in a waiting area for a gondola business, and your all-important surprise will trickle away like that feng shui fountain.

But since this guy has opened my mind to the possibilities:
of buying leather furniture,
investing in water fountains and ficus trees,
renting more space from my landlord,
and paying more staff to oversee this whole "waiting experience".
I'll run, not walk, to grab my checkbook.
Instead of pumping in "calming music" electronically, perhaps I should just hire a cellist or even a string quartet.

This guy doesn't want a gondola cruise, he's confused my business with some sort of new age spa.


Or worse:
I drove a friend to see their therapist today,
video
 As I sat there in the waiting area, I slowly realized that I was in exactly the environment this guy had described.


Why was this waiting area so important?
Instead we walked onto a small dock with a bunch of other covered boats and no one was around to greet\receive.  Once the boat arrived we awkwardly tried to stay clear of the couple returning from their ride to not kill the mood for them. 
Of course when we saw this review, my staff and I went in to full Crime-Scene-Investigation mode.

As it turned out, the author of this review arrived early, and instead of patiently waiting (as he had been instructed to do when booking), 
he and his date walked past a swing-gate and several signs that said things like "no admittance".
It's not surprising that they ended up on the dock as the earlier cruise showed up.
I am surprised that he didn't have the time to check his watch, 
but took plenty of time to write such an authoritative critique.

Checking My Seats
The next chapter in his review was dedicated to how comfortable the seats were in the gondola. This boat has been in service for 17 years.  We have never heard a peep about the comfort level of the seats.  
I personally made sure they were as comfortable as possible when they were re-upholstered a year and a half ago.

Caution: hyperbole alert!
The reviewer chose to compare the seats in my gondola to those of the Metrolink train - and according to his review, the Metrolink seats were more comfortable.

I was dumbfounded.

I read the review, grabbed my car keys, walked out of my house, drove down to the docks, and at about 1:30 in the morning, I climbed into that gondola to make sure that there wasn't some sort of major upholstery malfunction going on. No problems there.

He had also taken issue with the angle of the backrest.
No problems there either. No complaints there, ever, until this guy blessed my boat with his enlightened presence.

The client was not remarkably tall, 
and yet complained about legroom - I don't know why.

And according to the expert, my table was "fixed", when in reality, 
it slides fore and aft quite conveniently.
Understand that there are a few "professional complainers" in my life, 
and if they've never complained about this gondola, 
in my mind, she passes the test.

Disneyland? Really?
Ah, but he saved his best advice for last:
let the gondoliers wear contemporary formal rather than cheesy black and white striped shirts with a red sash...this isn't Disneyland.
Yeah, he went there.

He went on to pick apart a few of our cruising traditions, speaking like a true expert on the subject.

Much attention was given to the fact that "We're not in Italy" 
and he took issue with the fact that his gondolier said things like  
"in Italy it's tradition to..."

I can't help but wonder if when this guy goes out for Chinese food, 
if he schools them on how they're not in China, so maybe they should just call it "food" rather than misrepresent it by referring to it as "Chinese food".
Heck, I wonder if he might stand up in the audience during a Shakespeare play and tell the actors to cut it out "cause we're not in Stratford, England!"

Like most of my friends in this great business, 
we strive to give our customers a "great escape".  
It's one part Newport Beach, 
one part Venice, Italy, 
and the rest is tailored to meet specific needs 
such as making sure she says "yes" 
or someone has a great birthday or anniversary.

Mr. "We're not in Italy" looked right past all that, 
and instead chose to tell us all the ways we're doing it wrong.

Trust the Experts
Whether you're talking to a butcher, a barber, or a garage mechanic, 
unless you're an expert in meats, haircuts, or engines - there's a good chance the guy you're talking to knows more than you do on the subject.
He may in fact be more than just a professional.
He might just be a passionate fanatic in the field of work that he's chosen - that's certainly the case for nearly all gondola company owners I know. 

In my previous post "Getting Yelped" I touched on the topic of "reviewing by the masses" which is really what this is. 
Anybody can review.
Experts, idiots, objective compassionate thinkers, 
and self-absorbed blowhards.

As a business owner you have no control over what is said about your establishment.  As an extension, waiters, cashiers, and yes, gondoliers - also have no control over what is said online.
Fortunately, most people who review my business have had nothing but positive things to say, and that has helped us quite a lot.

But even so, just this past week I found myself on the phone with a guy who was considering hiring my service for his proposal.

Guess what he asked about...
"Are the seats comfortable?"
"Why doesn't the table move?"
And "why don't you have a waiting area?"
Unbelievable.

One review, by a guy with his own strong opinions, who in my mind fancies himself as the next great critic of all things gondola, and I'm on the phone assuring someone that everything will be alright and that his proposal won't suffer because of these supposed seat, table, and waiting area issues.

A bad Yelp review is like a bad rumor:
doesn't matter if it's true or not - once it's out there, it's out there.
When I was a kid someone told me that gossip was like squeezing toothpaste out of a tube.  
Once it's out, you really can't get it all back in the tube.

We're Missing a Button
When you look at a Yelp review, you'll notice a few things at the bottom of the review.
There's a little piece of text asking "was this review..."
and then there are three buttons to choose from:
"useful", "funny", and "cool".
There's no thumbs up/thumbs down option, no button options that say that it was "not useful" or worse.
Sure, there's an option to flag a review, but in many cases the flagging options don't apply.
What about "funny?" It seems like Yelpers are encouraged to not only be reviewers, but comedians as well (sometimes at our expense).

It seems to me that if we are now stuck with being "reviewed by the masses", that the masses ought to be able to also rate some of these reviews.
Proprietors have the option to respond to reviews in writing, but what if other people could rate existing reviews a little more realistically?

My wife suggested to me that Yelp should add a button that says 
"you're an idiot"
She's Italian with parents from New York.  She doesn't mince words.


Although I tend to be more of a diplomat than my wife, on this point I agree.
In fact I might suggest that Yelp also add a few more buttons:
"Really?!"
"Go home - you're drunk"
and "Step away from the keyboard!"