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VP dishes out advice during surprise Tilt'n Diner visit

Vice President Joe Biden gave Belmont Middle School student Nicole Antonucci a big hug as he called out to her mother that she is not to date until she turns 30. Biden made a stop at the Tiltín Diner last Thursday on his way to Concord, where he filed paperwork to enter President Barack Obama in the upcoming New Hampshire Primary. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
October 26, 2011
TILTON — For Nicole Antonucci, Oct. 20, 2011 is a day she will tell her grandchildren about in years to come.

Before the seventh grader gets to that point in her life, however, she may first have to seek approval from an even higher authority than her father when it comes time for her first boyfriend.

"No dating until you're 30, do you hear me?" said Vice President Joe Biden during his stop at the Tilt'n Diner last Thursday.

Wrapping his arms around Antonucci in a bear hug, he then called out, "Did you hear that, Mom? Not until she's 30!"

Biden was at Plymouth State University last week to tout President Barack Obama's jobs bill before heading south to Concord, where he filed papers for the President's candidacy in the upcoming New Hampshire Primary.

En route to the Attorney General's office, however, he and his entourage planned a detour off Exit 20 to the Tilt'n Diner, a popular eatery for all who live and travel through the Lakes Region.

Alex Ray owns the Common Man Family of Restaurants, which includes the Tilt'n Diner, The Common Man in Ashland, Plymouth and Concord, the Italian Farmhouse, Route 104 Diner, Lago and Town Docks in Meredith, as well as many other establishments throughout the state. Ray said he was told Biden wanted to allow his staff time for lunch at the diner, and for himself to have a chance to meet, appropriately, with the "common folk" of New Hampshire.

"I'm not sure why he selected us, but I really like the fact that he'll be coming here to meet folks. It's an honor," said Ray as Secret Service agents and support staff staged themselves both inside and outside of his restaurant prior to the vice president's arrival.

Pepi and Steve Alman of Massachusetts had just finished lunch in Tilton, and were wondering what the hubbub was about as they headed for their car in the parking lot. Learning of the impending visit, the couple scrapped plans to visit Castle in the Clouds that afternoon, and waited for Biden instead.

"This is incredible. Who would have thought this was what we'd do on our vacation?" said Pepi.

Also awaiting his arrival were Gov. John Lynch and many unsuspecting diners. When the motorcade pulled into the parking lot off Route 3, the governor and Ray gave the Vice President a warm welcome. Biden then made his way around the restaurant, stopping to shake hands and pose for photos with Ray's staff and diners, most of whom quickly reached for cell phones to record the chance encounter.

But it was the 12-year-old from Belmont who caught Biden's attention the most. Once he placed his order for homemade apple pie and ice cream for Ray, Lynch and himself, the Vice President was introduced to the young teen, and from there, he took matters into his own hands.

Mary Antonucci watched in amazement as Biden spun around on his stool at the counter and chatted with her daughter. After asking her age and giving Nicole advice about boys, the two went on to chat about things that matter to a teen.

"He asked her where she went to school, and if she was involved in sports, her grades, things like that, then he told her about his grandchildren," Mary said. "It was incredible. I couldn't believe it!"

Mom and daughter had been on their way for a little after school shopping when they were held up in traffic on Route 140. Antonucci said she was initially frightened to see so many State Police vehicles and helicopters hovering overhead, but a quick phone call revealed it was none other than the Vice Presidential motorcade tying up traffic.

"My daughter is really into politics already, so we decided to stop by the diner for a snack, a little girl time, and see him but we never thought this would happen," said Mary after Nicole's chat with Biden.

After spending some time with the Belmont Middle School teenager, Biden waved Mary over to let her know what advice he had given her daughter and treated her with the same warmth he had shown to Nicole.

Regardless of any political partisanship, Antonucci said the chance to meet and talk with the Vice President of the United States is something to remember for a lifetime.

"After all," she added with a smile, "it isn't every day that a vice president hands out dating advice to a girl from New Hampshire."

It was indeed a pretty special moment.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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