Thursday, December 31, 2009

I feel conflicted about 2009. While the changes in our lives have been very positive, the losses are pretty big. Too many to mention here, but suffice to say Athens will never be the same.
Looking forward to a happy and healthy 2010, and wishing the same for all of you.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Yesterday at the Local Grocery I was astounded when I saw a woman grab both of her unruly children by their coat collars and drag them bodily into the restroom, where I assume they both got the talking-to they desperately needed.
They emerged, both holding hands over their mouths, and the whole party proceeded through the store without further ado. I was about to remark to Sven that it was a Vermont Parenting First when the woman asked me where to find the Stilton. She had a British Accent. I refrained from begging her to start a parenting class, and instead pointed her to the proper section and thanked her silently for being a good example.
I was off today, so I spent some time running errands and rewarded myself with a visit to the Thrift Store in Errab, where I picked up four sweaters (one of them cashmere), a skirt, a paperback novel, and a small gold pin in the shape of a wiener dog- all for $26 and change.
I didn't accomplish everything I set out to do, but ticked several things off of the list. We're leaving for Chicago on Friday (gods and weather willing), and we'll be driving through Canada (I have been told by people who've made the journey several times that it's much faster and easier). We've already got the b.h.'s special ID taken care of, as well as the new plates and State inspection for our new car. New dog beds? Check. Now we need a signed piece of paper from the vet saying that the rabies' tags we have actually belong with our dogs. Still not sure about food restrictions, so we're looking into that as well.
The b.h. gave me my birthday present early. It is an Olympus:) digital slr camera, something I have wanted for ages and would never buy for myself. You may expect that I will be absent for a bit while I figure out it's inner workings, but after that expect a growing collection of random pictures on this blog. I am so excited I can barely stand it.

Friday, December 25, 2009

RIP, Vic Chesnutt.
Beer, Pizza, and the b.h. Ahhhhhhhh.

Happy Holidays everybody.

Monday, December 21, 2009

I was informed for the first time a few days ago that all Local Grocery employees were expected to help with answering the phone. This was news to me, after over three months of full-time employment, but I had no problem with it. So yesterday, i happened to be very near to a phone when it rang. I picked it up.
"Local Grocery, can I help you?"
"Do you carry A Certain Brand Of Local Salad Dressing?"
"Let me check."
I put the woman on hold and made my way through the very crowded store to the dressing section, then made my way back to the phone.
"Yes, ma'am, we do carry that brand. We have four varieties."
"Can you tell me how much it is? I forgot to ask."
"Well, yes, but you'll have to hold another minute while I go check."
I put her on hold again, ran the same gauntlet, and returned.
"Hi, they are $4.19 each for 16 ounces."
"Do you have the Maple Balsamic variety?"

-Long and obvious pause while I refrain from actually speaking the words that first spring to mind.-

"...I don't know, but it really is on the other side of the store from me at the moment."
Mercifully, she didn't make me check. Needless to say, I plan to ignore the phone henceforth.
We have very little room in this house, and a Christmas tree just didn't seem practical, so the other day I went out and picked up several pine boughs. I brought them home, wired them to the bannister, and wrapped them with lights and hung some ornaments on. Viola!



Or possibly Fa la la la la.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

http://americanroutes.publicradio.org/

The show with Tom Waits from last night is fantastic. Check it out.

Friday, December 18, 2009

On the Local Restaurant front, we have lost our Fearless Leader, the Harried Manager's boss, he of the giant head and no apparent brains. This is a blessing and a curse. A blessing because I no longer have to endure his terrible fake niceties (and worse spelling), and a curse because I fear who will take his place. Fingers crossed.
In the meantime, Manager In Name Only is a couple months pregnant and even crazier than she was before. She told me she was pregnant exactly two days after she told me how her eight-year-old son was ruining her life. She said it in a breathless, excited way. This was just before she told me she was marrying the guy that had just broken up with her because of her son. The guy who was the father of the impending child. Okay, then. Good luck with that. I am thrilled to be working there just two nights a week. My barback is a student named Taylor, whom I recommended for the job because I knew how much he enjoyed bartending and that even at age 22 he was more of an adult than the other two people I worked with behind that bar. He is currently in Boston doing a tryout ("stage") with the bar that he hopes to intern in when his time at Culinary School is over. That will be in march, and I wish him the best of luck while also lamenting his departure.

Other than that, it has been colder than I care to talk about. Lots and lots of snow (for me, but not for Vermont), shoveling like a champ, working my butt off, and trying to find time to read and keep up on some television. I have recently found myself addicted to Lie to Me. Tim Roth is a weakness for which I will not apologize. He's short, his eyes are crooked, and he walks funny. And yet I find him wildly compelling.
I just finished reading Au Revoir to All That; Food, Wine, and the End of France. A great read. Really interesting bits about the history, politics, attitudes, and personalities that have affected French food culture. I just started Jonathan Lethem's You Don't Love Me Yet. Haven't formed an opinion about it yet. I ripped right through Jay McInerney's Model Behavior last month. He's just hilarious. I have a feeling he would make a great drinking buddy.
Speaking of which, I did manage to get to the cask of Life and Limb, a collaboration between Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada, which happen to be two of my favorite breweries. This was last night at the Three Penny Tavern. I was joined by the b.h., so it was an even bigger treat than usual. We are just not socializing much these days, and it was a welcome change. The beer was fantastic, and bought for me by a couple reps from Sierra that I had met earlier in the day at the Local Grocery. One of them gave me his card, and we talked about potential future employment. Not entirely likely, but a nice thought.
Right then. I'm off to do as little as possible Talk to you soon.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

One degree.
But according to weather.com, it "feels like" -11.
Feels like crap if you ask me.

Monday, December 14, 2009

West Coast Karen was cleaning up some cheese. This is a term we use for scraping and re-wrapping cheese that has been cut for awhile and hasn't sold. It's not a big deal, really- mold and cheese go together like wild yeast and sour beer, after all- but occasionally we get a piece that is either too small or too damaged to just re-wrap, in which case we clean it up and cut it very small for our sample basket. This is a basket of random pieces and weird sizes where people can get something to snack on while they shop or just a taste of something they have never tried before. Anyway, WCK has taken to referring to these as our Baby Cheeses, which has led to jokes about how we ought to make the basket into a manger, and that "Cheeses is the reason for the season", etc. Yes, we are easily amused in the cheese department.
A good thing, too, because the stress level can be quite high for some people, and were it not for the endless amusement at silly jokes I fear Sven might show up with an automatic weapon one day. There is much tension, you see, between he and another employee. The kind that is unspoken but that I am certain could be cut with a knife on some days. This other employee, I think I'll call her DeeDee, has been in the department for longer than Sven. Longer than any of us, actually, except for Barbara, who is the Big Cheese (and wine, for that matter) and has been working for the Local Grocery for over twenty years. Anyway, DeeDee and Barbara ran the department with only one other person for about five years before Sven arrived, and they developed the kind of shorthand that people do when they build something together. They also built a system that was rather, um... fucked up. But since it developed gradually, they all understood it perfectly and it seemed totally normal to them. So, along came Sven, and a couple other new people, who were trained in yet remained bewildered by this system, and they eventually developed their own system.
This system is just fine for Big Cheese, because she just wants things to get done and has avoided a position in management because she has no desire to tell anyone what to do or how to do it. DeeDee, however, is pissed. She trained Sven to do things her way, he discovered that it didn't work as well on his shifts (mostly weekends, which are extremely busy), and he resents her for "trying to control him."
Yep. This is where I work. Sven will go through the whole cheese case, rearranging and straightening and beautifying the display to his satisfaction, and then he will walk away, and Barbara will go behind him and change it. This is much more amusing/infuriating on the one day that they work together. As a person who should be spending a good deal of their time talking about and selling wine, it is quite discouraging to spend twice as long as I should have to cutting the cheese (heh heh- I said "cutting the cheese"- see how easily amused I am?) because they are spending half the day doing and undoing each other's work. I should add that these two are both well into their forties, and well past the age where childish behavior is comprehensible, much less acceptable.
The good news is that their crazy makes West Coast Karen's crazy seem so much more charming.
"Skylar. Skylar. Skylar. Skylar. Skylar. SKYLAR. That's a stranger."
My co-worker at the Local Grocery was talking to me about germs. Tom is almost sixty, though he looks about forty-five to me. He's funny and nice, and one of the few people that I think I actually relate to there. I mean, there are plenty of nice people at the LG, but not very many that I would actually allow in my house, or say, have a beer with.
A lot of people have been getting sick lately, and there has been a big push for extra sanitation, which I appreciate.
"If you ever need to use this phone," he said, picking up the receiver, "you can wipe it down with this stuff." He had a spray bottle with disinfectant in it which he sprayed directly onto the mouthpiece.
I explained to him that while I am not necessarily a dyed in the wool germophobe, I do tend to wipe down the handles in the bathroom with hand sanitizer every time I use it.

"Yeah, my wife and I are both a little nutty about germs," he responded, and bent to pick up a piece of cheddar that had fallen to the floor. He popped it in his mouth and wished me a good day.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

"What's your favorite?" asked the woman, looking over the dessert menu.
"I'm a big fan of the pot du creme," I answered, pronouncing the first word Poe as I had been taught by chef.
"Well, I think I'll pronounce it like the French would, and I'll have the pot du creme," said the woman's friend, with an extra emphasis on the t.

I'll be sure and tell the French chef that his French mother taught him the wrong pronunciation of that French word, I thought.
What I actually said, after a pause that was just long enough to let the other three ladies' discomfort register in their brains so that they wouldn't bring the troll back again, was
"Well okay then. Anyone else?" I had plastered on the kind of big, fake smile that one needs in order to survive in the service industry. They all ordered with the kind of pleading looks on their faces that one wears when one is hoping that you don't spit in their desserts, too.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Notes To Self

I was cleaning out my "writing/sewing" desk today (the bunny ears are due to the fact that I neither write nor sew at that desk, and it sits there and mocks me insolently while I waste hours and hours on the internets) and I cam across a number of scraps of paper, napkins, old receipts, ticket stubs, and the like. I am certain that I have mentioned this habit before, but I'm too lazy to look up an instance of it and link, so I'll just say that often (especially while bartending) I have thoughts or overhear conversations or phrases that I feel the need to jot down for later use, either in a blog post or a scene in the forthcoming Book/TV Show/Movie that I hope to some day sit down and write. Some of these things are universal to all bartending jobs, and made me laugh and think about how many times this has happened to me recently. An example of this is a piece of napkin that reads:

"Thanks, I appreciate it." Yeah, I can tell because YOU KEEP SAYING THAT.

It is difficult to italicize on a bev nap. It is also difficult to remember exactly what the person looked like that prompted this particular Note To Self, because his behavior has been rep[eated by so many people as to render him one of a faceless mass. I do remember that the guy was buying drinks, taking back all of his change without tipping, and very earnestly telling me how much he appreciated my service. As if somehow I could tell my landlord how much I was appreciated at my job and he would decide to forgo my rent.

There are other notes which are very specific to a place or a band or a situation. Some of these make me nostalgic, and others make me really happy to have changed jobs. Like this:

What kind of night? Look no further than the ladies' room.
Cheap perfume smell + empty airplane bottles of flavored rum = rednecks.
Puke and broken glass and empty pints of cheap vodka = Sorostitutes.
Graffiti + puke + empty whiskey bottles = punk rock show.
Haze of patchouli + pot smoke = goddamned hippies.

The Local Restaurant may not be glamorous, but I never have to deal with vomit. (*knock wood*)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

West Coast Karen was telling Sven about her break.
"I have to go out. I'm watching a dog for somebody and I have to go take him out."
She then launched into a long story about how she started back at a pet-sitting service, and how this was her first job, watching a geriatric dog for some people who were out of town for the holiday weekend. The dog was very high maintenance because it had a lot of health problems and therefore a lot of medications, one of which was apparently left unmarked in a bowl at dog level, right next to his food. West Coast Karen apparently fed the dog several pills, thinking that they were treats, and then somehow mentioned it to the dog's owner via a phone call (I didn't hear the details because I was busy trying my best not to listen because that's what I do when West Coast Karen is talking). The owner then proceeded (justifiably, I think)to freak out, spewing forth expletives and "You killed my dog" and the like, to which WCK responded

"I'm getting the sense that you're angry here, and I think we just need to move on."

She was completely serious. The owner then instructed her to squirt hydrogen peroxide into the dog's mouth in order to induce vomiting, which she did. The dog vomited, and up until at least the last time she had checked in, was still breathing. But WCK, who purportedly has an advanced degree in psychology,was convinced that she had done nothing wrong.

"I mean, the bowl wasn't marked, and everything else was marked, you know?" she was telling Sven, who simply nodded. I was staring determinedly into the large wheel of clothbound cheddar I was cutting. Please don't bring me into this please please please please I thought, whistling as if I was hearing none of her story.

"I think she just felt guilty because obviously it was her fault."
"Probably so," responded Sven, without a hint of sarcasm.

There was a resounding sproing as the cheese wire broke in the middle of my cheddar wheel.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Can anybody please tell me how to require verification for comments? I'm getting spam now, and there is a comment that I can't delete. Irritating!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

So I'm driving to the Local Restaurant the other day, right around what could loosely be called rush hour. And as I get into an intersection downtown on Main Street in my booming metropolis, the light turns yellow, and the cars in front of me come to a rather abrupt halt, leaving me in that weird position where I'm too far into the intersection to stop, but not far enough that it looks like I should actually be allowed to go. When I looked to me left, at the traffic that would be coming toward me momentarily, I saw that the first vehicle in line was a horse-drawn carriage. Okay, so I'm going to go, because I'm fairly certain that those folks are not in a hurry or they would have chosen another mode of transport.
Traffic in front of me started moving again just as the light turned red, and I scooted through with nary a scowl from the other drivers. Whew. Next, I found a parking space almost directly across the street from the LR, which is fantastic because I am usually the last person out of there and it is usually quite late and quite dark at that time, and not having to walk very far by myself to my car is a plus. I pulled quickly into the space and started rummaging around for a quarter to put in the parking meter.
Emerging from the car, I was passed by the aforementioned horse and carriage, which turned out to be piloted by a pair of bedreadlocked hippies and adorned with a sign that read "Blah Blah Blah Farms, Somewhere in VT. Rides $$" I thought to myself that rush hour in the middle of the week was a bad time to be cruising around downtown, because not only were they unlikely to find anybody out looking for a relaxing ride, but also they were in the middle of a whole lot of traffic, holding things up and being a nuisance to other drivers. Not fostering a lot of goodwill, and generally not good business. As I said- hippies.
I immediately forgot about them and made my way back down the block to the crosswalk. I crossed the street and turned back toward the Local restaurant, strolling along with my head somewhere else (praying that a certain regular customer *cough* Town Drunk *cough* was not going to be in his usual seat at my bar) until I was brought back to the present by a loud bang and shouting. I looked up to the next intersection (about 100 feet away) to see Hippie #1 picking himself up off the ground, the cart, having come loose, flying sideways into the side street, and Hippie #2, dangling from the reigns, shouting at the horses to stop. The two horses had broken loose and turned 180 degrees, and were running in terror, dragging the metal (in front of and behind them) that should have held the whole thing together. They plowed directly into a parked car before coming to a stop almost in front of the LR. I was standing with my mouth open, totally in shock, next to another pedestrian (who, as it happened, also looked to be on her way to work at a restaurant). We both seemed to repeat the words "holy shit" about fifteen times before regaining enough sense to move forward and see if we could help.
"Do you want us to call anyone?" I asked Hippie #2 from a safe distance. He was holding both horses now, and trying to calm them.
"No, that's alright."
"Is anybody hurt?"
"No, nobody's hurt," he replied, after a cursory once-over of the horses. Hippie #1 was approaching from the other direction. Traffic was moving around the abandoned carriage as if nothing had happened.

The other Restaurant Girl and I turned and started back down the sidewalk.

"That was weird," she said, finally exhaling.

"Yeah- pretty fucking scary," I replied, turning into the front door of the LR.

I never did see if anything happened to the car.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A woman walked up while I was stocking cheese at the LG today.
"You have a lot of cheese here," she said.
"Yes we do," I replied, smiling since assuming that she was having trouble choosing.
"Lotsa Cancer," she said in an admonishing tone. She disappeared down the dairy aisle before I could even process the remark.
I've decided I need to start writing down the wisdom that our customers share with me.
Also, I need to start quoting the hippie parents I encounter on a daily basis here in The Green Mountain State.

"Sage, hold Willow's hand. Sage, I need you to stop ramming that wine stack with the cart. Sage, I need you to listen. Sage... Sage..."

Today's was "Cypress, come to papa."

Glad I have a day off tomorrow.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sven was going through a very long explanation of various local cheeses with a customer. The thing is, Sven is really not into customer service at all, because he isn't into customers at all, and will only interact with them when he is forced to. So today there he was, out from behind the counter for a sp,lit second, when this woman came out iof nowhere and asked him a question. He stood for a moment like a deer in proverbial headlights, trying to decide whether or not to flee, and then silently acquiesced. I could see the bitter resignation in his eyes. Fortunately, the customer could not. So there he stood, all six and a half feet of him, going through at least twenty different cheeses. He even went so far as to cut a piece for the woman to taste. She loved it, and Sven was looking quite relieved as he headed back toward West Coast Karen and me. But oh no, too soon.
"I can't buy New Hampshire cheese," she said loudly to Sven's back. His shoulders fell even faster than his face.
"Okay- is there something in particular about New Hampshire?"
"I'm going to a L0cavore's Dinner and I need cheese from Vermont."
He explained to her, much more patiently than I would have been able to, that in fact parts of New Hampshire were more local than parts of Vermont, and that the cheese in question was, according to LV definition, local.
I waited until she was out of earshot before mumbling
"If you're going to be a sanctimonious twat you could at least try to grasp basic geography."
West Coast Karen gasped audibly and Sven looked confused. I really do need a social filter here. Either that or Verm0nt needs to lighten up. Jokes, people! Jokes!!
*Sigh*
Nobody gets me here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Harried Manager came flying to the bar the other night, a rack of fancy wine glasses in hand. He sent Too Loud Trixie, the Inappropriate Bartender, to get the expensive wine that had been ordered from the wine closet.
He chose to send TLT because he knew that she had been getting on my nerves for a couple of hours and he was tying to give me a moment's peace. Unfortunately, being the diplomat that he is, what Harried Manager actually said was
"I want Trixie to go. She needs practice finding the wines back there. You- (he pointed at me) stay and help me polish these. We have to be really careful with these so they don't break."
He was right, of course. Trixie has worked mostly day shifts and doesn't know the wine closet as well as I do because she doesn't use it as often, and she would have agreed with him had he found a better way to say it and had she not already been working for nine hours. But he didn't, and she had, so she threw a fit and cursed a blue streak right there behind the bar, in full view of all of the bar patrons and likely within earshot of almost everybody in the dining room upstairs.
Welcome to my Saturday night, everybody. These days it seems like I work with Trixie more often than not, and despite the fact that she clearly cannot handle a double shift without losing it and shooting her mouth off, she seems to volunteer for them on a regular basis.

So, Too Loud Trixie goes off in a huff, and then HM polishes exactly one and a half of the ten glasses before shattering one into a million pieces. This throws him completely off of his game, and as he scrambles to pick up the broken shards, he nearly knocks the entire rack (containing the rest of the unpolished glasses) to the floor. A trainee approaches, and is thrust into the middle of the task as Harried Manager finds havoc to wreak elsewhere. Trixie returns, smiling and cheerful as if nothing has happened, and sees the broken glass in the trash.

"What happened?" she asks, as if it isn't obvious.
"Harried Manager broke a glass," I respond with total ambivalence.
"You see? What an asshole. Good. I'm glad he broke one." (You can assume exclamation points after anything uttered by Trixie. Were I to type them, this post would be twice as long.)
"Well, you should be glad that it was him and not you," I say calmly and quietly. "He's just freaking out, and now he isn't freaking out at you."
I find it frustrating that this woman is ten years older than me and still such a child. She also has a habit of accusing everyone else of lacking professionalism, the irony of which will surely not escape the more astute among you. (Minutes later she dropped an entire rack full of glasses in the back hall, and then she came back behind the bar and cussed out loud about that, too.)

Through all of this, an off duty cook named Ed has been observing, drink in hand, from the other side of the bar. He occasionally looks at me as if to say, "Dude- I am so sorry." I occasionally respond by noting out loud the number of minutes there are before I am able to have a beer. About twenty minutes after the glasses are finished and the wine is whisked away, Harried Manager returns, stepping back to pour himself a caffeinated beverage behind the bar just opposite Ed.
"Well, the shit show's almost over," he sighs, looking at his watch.
Ed immediately shoots back "Why- are you out of here?"
I think ed and I are going to get along just fine. I knew my people had to be up here somewhere.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

West Coast Karen, my over-concerned co-worker, was working in the deli the other day at the Local Grocery, when I overheard her explaining The Turkeys to a customer.

The Turkeys are currently flapping about doing turkey things and enjoying hormone-free, organic turkey diets in preparation for the end-of-month holiday, when they will go from Mr. or Mrs. Turkey to "turkey, $3.99 a pound". Of course, some turkeys are only $2.99 a pound at the Local Grocery. It depends on which farm they come from. $3.99 Knoll Farms turkeys are pasture raised, with access to a barn. They are able to wander in and out of said barn as they please. The $2.99 Hill Farm turkeys are raised in pens, which are moved about from place to place in a pasture, so that they get new grass and new bugs every so often. They have roofs over their heads and therefore, logically, less chance of getting eaten by a predator. This means fewer animals lost, which means a better profit margin, and the ability of the farmer to charge less per pound and still afford to be a farmer.

All of this nuance is of course completely lost on West Coast Karen, because although she seems to have no problem selling their meat by the pound (or consuming it, for that matter) she is very concerned about the well-being of The Turkeys.

"How are the $2.99 turkeys different from the $3.99 turkeys?" asked a customer.
"They don't have free will."
"Or claw marks!" I piped up helpfully from behind the cheese counter.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Yesterday when I got to work at the Local Restaurant, My Harried Manager came up and handed me an envelope.
"What's this?"
"It's your bonus," he said, smiling uncomfortably and rushing off once it was in my hands.
I ripped it open and read the letter. It was from the Head of the Culinary School. You will remember that the Local Restaurant is run by the Culinary School, which the b.h. attends as a student. (Of course you will remember, because the minutiae of my life is ever so enthralling.) Anyway, the letter is about the school and how it relates to the community and my job, and it encourages me to think about donating some money to the scholarship fund. "It's easy," reads the letter, which I am reading with the voice of Idiot School Head in my mind, though I have never met Idiot School Head) to donate. Money can be taken directly from your paycheck, by filling out this simple form."

This is all well and good, but my whole bloody paycheck is already going to the school, you asshole. Also, this is a particularly bad time of year, what with business having just dropped off abruptly and probably until the end of the year, to be asking already strapped, no-insurance-having service industry professionals for their hard-earned money. This is beyond bad taste. I felt awful for Harried Manager, because I realized that he was embarrassed to have to hand this to me. We joked about it later. If I weren't so desperately in need of the money I make from my two weekly shifts at Local Restaurant, I would write a letter to Idiot School Head telling him where he can stick his donation request. Honestly.

On a lighter note, I socialized with co-workers for the second time last night. It was only nicking over to the tap room for a quick beer after my shift, but it did involve adult conversation with people, as opposed to my Digital Friends (not that there's anything wrong with them), so it was pleasant. I text-messaged Nick Bielli in the middle of a story because I couldn't remember the name of a band. I would tell you who it was, but I don't even want to type their name in the ether one more time because I think they suck (er, sucked, may be more appropo, since I doubt they have played in a decade) and I don't want to give them any more mentions. Anyway, Nick bailed me out and I felt like I was still in Athens, behind the bar at Local Rock Club, and I was briefly comforted.

Tomorrow we will be paid a visit my the boys from Modern Skirts. Our schedules won't allow us to see them play, but we'll put them up for a night and feed them a nice home-cooked meal in mid-tour. I'm looking forward to it.

Off to work at the Local Grocery. Then home to clean for company. TTFN.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Just reading Vonnegut's Man Without a Country. In it he quotes Karl Marx: "Religion is the opium of the people", and points out that at the time (1844), opium and opium derivatives were the only available painkillers. Therefore, he argues, this is "a casual truism, not a dictum."
Fascinating. We've been ever-so-slightly misquoting Marx forever, the result being that we have completely missed the point.
I have been known to say that television is the opiate of the masses. The problem is that religion isn't an opiate anymore- it's more like meth.

Vonnegut's birthaversary (can you call it a birthday after somebody has died?) is Wednesday. I think we need him now more than ever.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Oh Jeebus- Stephen Fry in America. I am smitten. Now, how do I get myself a gig like this in the U.K.? Professional American for hire?
It has often been said that Athens is the Island of Misfit Toys. Well, the Local Grocery is a similar island, but instead of cool stuff like one-armed Star Wars figurines and melted G.I. Joes, this one is all lame, generic, Strawberry Shortcake and My Little Pony wanabees. Honestly, people. Can you find a way to be crazy and still functional?
My co-worker Karen is a self-proclaimed "West Coast Person", whatever that means, and she had a fit the other day because I was trying to kill a fly (yes- a fly) that wouldn't get away from the blue cheese we were cutting.
"Run away!" she yelled, waving her arms maniacally and jumping around behind the already claustrophobic counter. When it flew off unharmed, she looked at me accusingly and asked "What did that fly ever do to you?!"
Before I could answer that flies are disease spreading vermin who have no place in a grocery store, Sven (another cheese guy) goes
"Well, he threw up on my arm, for starters."
She looked bewildered, and I just busted out laughing. Confrontation averted. I knew I liked that guy.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

There is a reason why Halloween is my favorite holiday.













Monday, November 02, 2009

I'll be heading to work at the Local Grocery in a few minutes. Last night I worked at the LR, and it was actually quite fun. The b.h. stopped in to see me, and there were several regular customers as well. I waited on a pair of women in their fifties (I'm guessing) who were self-proclaimed foodies and lifelong restaurant people. This can be nerve wracking with some people, but these two were hilarious. A bit boisterous, enthusiastic, and not terribly concerned with propriety. In other words, my kind of gals. Also, there was a live music performance (we do this every Tuesday night at the LR) which I loved. The singer's name was Abby something (no, not "Normal"), and she covered Wilco and The Jayhawks as well as several other artists that I really like. If every Tuesday was Abby night, I would be very happy.
At the end of the night a couple of the usual suspects came down from the kitchen and entertained me while I cleaned up, and after we went for a beer next door. I finally tried Southern Tier's Iniquity, which is a fabulous, bitter, dark ale that I could easily have consumed in quantity, were I not so full of self control.
I have been going through old journals, trying to find reference to the night I met Ron Jeremy. I've been homesick for Athens lately and I'm hoping that writing about it will make me feel better. So I'll try to get around to that soon.
Oooh- and I managed to get my bar shift covered for Saturday night, so I will be able to attend the annual LG Wine Tasting, which is apparently Quite A Do. Looking forward to it.
So I'm at work at the Local Grocery on Friday, and I am handing out samples of cheese to passing customers. This crazy-haired guy (picture Bob Ross from PBS, or any version of "nutty professor" that springs to mind) jumps back like I've offered him a plate of live rattlesnakes and goes
"No- I read in the paper that you shouldn't. Actually, it wasn't in the paper, but I read somewhere that it was no good."
"Uh... okay," I respond, backing away slowly.
"But you shouldn't listen to me anyway! Ha! Because I don't know anyth..."
I was already gone. Whoa.
On Saturday, I worked at the LG from 8am to 3 pm, then came home and got dressed in the b.h.'s suit, slicked my hair down, drew on a mustache, soul patch, and sideburns, and made my eyebrows much thicker and darker with the help of the same eye pencil, and headed off to work. I had fun and confused a few people and made money. Got home around midnight, and was surprised to find that I didn't feel all that bad after a fourteen hour day. Sunday I got to sleep in and didn't work until eleven. Came home to some lovely tomato soup (Note: Always use good sherry for cooking. Even at twenty bucks a bottle, a recipe is well worth it.) and various cheeses (my new favorite is an aged Gouda called "Ewephoria") with some crusty bread. Also had a couple Sierra Nevada Torpedos and then slept like a baby. Today I was up at ten, went for coffee while the b.h. had an interview, and ran into my friend Rob. We chatted for an hour or so, then the b.h. came back, and we left to find some lunch.
When we returned to our car, the meter had already expired, and there was a woman there writing us a ticket.
"You can just hand that right to me if you like," I said. I am all for rules and I have no trouble admitting when I am wrong. It's a point of pride for me, actually. I never give the people who have to write tickets a hard time because I am sure I wouldn't want that job.
Anyway, she turned to me, smiling, and said
"Oh! That's a terribly pessimistic attitude! Besides, I haven't printed it out yet," she turned the ticket-printing device toward me to demonstrate, "so you can just drive away."
"Really?"
"Really. Just go ahead."
"Thanks! Have a nice day!", I smiled. She smiled back and waved.

"What did she say?" asked the b.h., when I sat down. He had gotten straight into the car when we came out. I relayed the conversation to him, and he shook his head like a dog trying to get water out of its ears.
"Seriously?"

Yep, I think I like it here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Last night the Harried Manager came to the bar and asked
"Are we all clear on menus?" By which he meant was everyone done ordering food and could he now tell the kitchen that they were through cooking for the night?
The answer was yes.
About fifteen minutes later, a student came down and asked if we were all clear on desserts. Yes again.
Five minutes after that, Sleeper Chef came and asked me yet again if desserts were clear. Still yes. A regular customer of mine, who also happens to be a student, marveled at Sleeper Chef's attitude, as well as his lack of trust in the student.
"Yes, well... that's Sleeper Chef for you."

About twenty minutes later, a female student arrived with desserts in her hands. I went directly over to see where they had come from and why.
"Oh, Manager ordered them for us," said my bartender-in-training, referring to himself and his girlfriend, who is a pastry student.
"But my name is on the ticket," I said, my voice rising a bit in panic. "Great! It's not like Sleeper Chef doesn't hate me enough already, now Manager is ordering desserts in my name after I have already given the all clear."
I said this in front of the Pastry Student who had delivered said desserts, in hopes that when she returned to the Pastry Kitchen she might convey what happened to Sleeper Chef. Which is probably wishful thinking. Ugh. At least I only work there two nights a week now.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

On Sunday, the b.h. and I packed the dogs in the car and drove to Salem, Massachusetts. It seemed like a good place to see in October. We had looked in a book we have about traveling in New England, and there were maps of walking tours and some others things to do and see. We knew it would be crowded, because I had talked to a regular customer who had been there a couple weeks ago, but we weren't quite prepared for exactly how crowded it was. It took ages to find a place to park, and then we walked quite a ways through a really pretty neighborhood to get down by the waterfront and all of the fun historical stuff. Little did we realize just how many boutiques and candy shoppes and pet bakeries and places to buy goofy witch themed things and Halloween costumes there would be. It was like Mardi Gras down there. People were walking around in costumes for no reason, and everywhere were witch hats. The cop who was directing traffic made sure to point out that "We're open twelve months a year here, not just in October, folks. If you don't like waiting, come on by any other time."
Everybody laughed, except Wyatt, who apparently hates crowds and was trying his best to drag us back toward the car any time we stopped.
In retrospect, we should have left the dogs behind. The problem is that we don't really know a lot of people here and our only dog sitter was out of town. So we weren't able to go into any of the museums or graveyards, but since there were so many people it probably would have been frustrating anyway.
The weather was beautiful, though, and we walked all over town and saw some sights and enjoyed the last gasp of Indian Summer, complete with spectacular fall colors. We also drove all around Cape Ann, which was gorgeous, and stopped so the b.h. could get some seafood. Fried clams for him and mozzarella sticks for me. Vacation is not about healthy eating.
So that was fun. Yesterday we did some running around and then spent the evening on the couch. Now I'm just bracing myself for my first full week of the new schedule. I'm at the Local Restaurant tonight, and then the store for the next several days, then a double on Saturday that starts at 8am and finished up a bit after midnight, then a regular shift at the store on Sunday and next Monday off. So wish me luck. I think I'll be fine until about 8pm on Saturday. Either way I will be spending more time with the b.h., which is great. Also, we now have health insurance, so that's pretty exciting.
I hope to have the time and creativity to dress up for Halloween on Saturday. If anybody has any suggestions, I'm open. If I don't think of anything that's clever and easy to work in, I will probably just go in drag.
Other than that, I have nothing to report.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A few weeks ago, I was working a stupid, stupid lunch shift at the Local Restaurant. It was loaded with leaf peepers, they all came in at once (off of buses), they all wanted separate checks, they were all on a tight schedule, and the kitchen was full of new students who couldn't even cook a blasted hamburger. One table had three young girls at it. A co-worker of mine came up and told me that they had completely stiffed him (no tip at all, for those of you unfamiliar with the term) a couple days before. He said I should make sure to tell them that their school cards only paid for the food and not the gratuity, because it was possible that they were confused, even though he had explained it to them. So, when I dropped the check, I sent over a manager (who is also an instructor at the school- this is how the restaurant/school relationship sometimes works) to make sure they understood. Then they stiffed me.

These school cards have been the bane of our existence at the Local Restaurant. What they are is basically $300 credit cards given to all new students, which they use to dine at the LR so they can experience the school and the food and the restaurant before they come in for class. The cards don't include gratuity, as I said, and a large percentage of the students don't tip. This leaves the professional wait staff stuck waiting on some really rude and obnoxious kids who take up all of our time and all of our tables, essentially for free.

After the girls left, I spoke to the chef instructor, and she said she was going to talk to them later, when they were in class. It was agreed all around that something needs to be done. Well, nothing was done. Or at least, no results were seen on our end. And the problem with a Culinary Institute is that new students are coming in all the time. It isn't like traditional college, where the new kids mostly arrive in the fall.

The other night, I was behind the bar, and lo and behold, one of these obnoxious young ladies arrives in full brigade (that's French for "cute little chef suit") in a big hurry. She was working in the kitchen, which meant that she had very limited time, and she had a cup in her hand. I looked up at her and smiled.

"What do you need?" I said, calmly. She immediately recognized me.
"Can I just get a ginger ale when you have a minute?"
"Of course," I smiled again, continuing to pour a glass of wine for an order that was going out to a customer. Then I started to make a martini. Normally, when I see a chef or a student chef coming, I reach over the bar, past any servers who are waiting for their drink orders, and fill their drink, because I know that they only have a moment and that they have to get back to the kitchen as soon as possible. This time I didn't feel any urgency at all. And sure enough, the little bitch ran back up the stairs to the kitchen without any ginger ale. Did she learn a lesson? I doubt it. Did I feel slightly better anyway? Damn straight.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

So I scored a full-time gig at the Local Co Op. I am now an official Wine and Cheese Broad, and I will have health insurance for the first time in my adult life. Holy cow.
Meantime, I have been working both jobs, had a severe cold and then food poisoning, and have not had a healthy day off in a couple of weeks. But at least there is a light at the end of this tunnel. Joy.
Dyed my hair back to red yesterday. I have been blonde for some time now (A year or two?) and as per usual, I completely ignored the warning on the label that said in no uncertain terms NOT to put the Henna dye over bleached hair. So rather than medium auburn, my hair is now a light orange, not unlike any other person of Irish decent. Not what I was going for, but doable. So there's that.
In other news, it has been getting colder and colder. The b.h. and I went and bought long underwear and boots and all of those things we used to never think about. The dogs have been extra snuggly, which is great. And after this week, I will likely be seeing more of all of my boys, which I am looking forward to.
I know this is a boring post, but I haven't had time to think. And now I'm off to walk in the woods.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sleeper Chef.

The other night I had some customers from Nebraska. I gathered this because the gentleman was wearing a sweatshirt that read "Nebraska!" and nobody is that excited about Nebraska, but those who live there will pretend to be when they travel elsewhere. In any case, these people were quite worldly, despite what you might think with their being from the Middle West of the U.S. of A. and they were eager to demonstrate this by asking a lot of questions about our Frenchy menu items, using proper French accents and everything. So basically I had to call the Pastry Chef and ask him these specific questions, being that I had no effing clue what kind of apples were in the Tart Tatin, since I am not local to this area and have no idea whether Tatin apples grow here or not.
I did not want to make this call, because the Pastry Chef in question is not a pleasant man, and invariably when I have to ask him a question he talks to me like a child with limited mental capacities with whom he is struggling to be patient.
"No, heybartender" he sighed heavily into the phone, "they are just good ole' Vermont USA apples." I pictured him eying the nearest sharp utensil, holding his shiny head in his hands.
"Thanks, chef!" I said, with more confidence than I felt, and hung up the phone.

I turned to The Nebraskans and delivered the news.

"It might be good anyway," the woman suggested to her husband, whose displeasure seemed extraordinary for a man who is on vacation and who has at least ten delectable dessert options.

He deigned to have the tart anyway, and the woman ordered the profiteroles, which she insisted on enunciating in perfect French, despite the discussion we'd had earlier about how she grew up in Chicago and was now a citizen of Nebraska. Perhaps it's only me (and every other waiter and patron within earshot, whom I noticed were also rolling their eyes), but I found this completely grating. If she were in Montreal, speaking to a native French speaker, then I would understand. Even if she threw in a bit of an accent, I would understand. Being somewhat bilingual myself, I tend to pronounce Spanish words in Spanglish, but I don't think it comes off this way. At least I seriously hope it doesn't.
Anyway- to the pastry kitchen, where I have to go to retrieve my own desserts. I am standing next to Charles, a waiter who is older than I am and has been at the Local Restaurant for several years. I love Charles because he lets everything roll right off. He is a consummate professional with a great sense of humor, a rock- an island, and he is already waiting for some desserts, so I don't have to face the Pastry Chef alone.
I walk up next to Charles, smiling, and mumble out of the side of my mouth.
"I think Pastry Chef hates me."
Without skipping a beat, he smiles back at me and mumbles out of the corner of his mouth "I think he hates everybody."

"That's true," I say, still smiling, and now Pastry Chef has looked up and made eye contact with me.

"She's making them all at the same time, so they will all be up in a minute" says Pastry Chef, his eyes dead.

"I don't think he's human," continues Charles, still smiling and still talking out of one side of his mouth. "I think he's one of those aliens- what do they call them? Oh yeah- sleeper aliens, like waiting to take over the planet.

"Yep, he definitely looks like he wants to eat our brains," I reply. My smile is now frozen, because Pastry Chef is looking directly into my eyes. He frightens me.

"He can probably hear everything we're saying right now." Charles is cracking up, and I am caught like a deer in Sleeper Chef's headlight eyes, waiting for him to strike a death blow from across the kitchen.

"How are your profiteroles?", I ask the Woman from Nebraska, without any hint of a French accent.
"They were disappointing. The ice cream and chocolate sauce were good, but the (whatever the hell the proper French word is for pastry shell) was too dry."
Of course.
On her comment card, she said that the other bartender and I paid more attention to regulars, and that we were not well informed. I'm not showing that one to Sleeper Pastry Chef.
This week has been extremely busy. I've lost count of both the number of shifts I have worked and the number of hours I have slept due to illness from co-workers who can't seem to stay home when they are sick. Not that I blame them. You don't get paid for staying home, and the power company doesn't take "I had a really bad cold" as payment.

Anyway. The b.h. and I celebrated another wedding anniversary on Friday night. I had the night off, but since I was feeling like crap I slept the whole day until it was time to go to dinner. We had dinner at The Local Restaurant (where I work), which was good but took forever (which happens often when there are students in the kitchen, and there are always students in the kitchen- it's part of the deal). Anyway, they bought us dessert (pumpkin profiteroles and some kind of brownie thing), and we rushed out the door to a play. The play was The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). It featured a total of three actors and was really entertaining, with lots of Monty Pythonesque speaking in not-terribly-feminine women's voices. I started to feel really crappy about halfway through, and by the time we got home I knew I was not going to make it to work on Saturday night. So I called my Harried Manager and he promised to work on it in the morning.
I slept the entire day on Saturday, getting up only to move from the bed to the couch and call Harried Manager (whom I have taken to calling "Hurricane (His Name)" to him and all of my co-workers). He covered my shift, and I settled in for more quality couch time. Watched three episodes of Dexter (Season Three now on DVD!), and promptly fell back to sleep for twelve or thirteen more hours.
I did manage to work last night with minimal coughing (until the very end). Today I'm feeling loads better and I hope to see a friend from down South in Burlington for dinner. Still waiting to see.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Wow. Nobel Peace Prize, huh? Say what you will, but I'm pretty happy about it. Something to live up to, as well as a rebuke of the last eight years. What's next?

Monday, October 05, 2009

Sorry about that last post. I wasn't really trying to be dramatic or anything, I just couldn't find words to say anything else. One of my former co-workers had a car wreck last Saturday night, and he was missing until his body was found (still in the car) Monday by another co-worker. He had gone off the road after hitting a puddle in rain and fog on his way home. Not certain exactly how old he was, but not more than 25. The whole thing is awful in so many ways and I haven't really found the energy to post since. I've been here several times, teed up and ready, but nothing would come. No insights or ruminations or remembrances- nothing. Just profound sadness and an odd feeling of disconnection from my friends. So yeah. I guess I'm back.

My parents were here for the week, and we did loads of fun touristy things. I took them to the Shelburne Museum, Neb and Jerry's, the cider mill, and several restaurants. We went to Montreal on Monday, which was very beautiful but the weather wasn't great (neither, apparently, is my father's ability to read a map or my mother's ability to operate a GPS) so we spent a lot of time in the car. There is a huge outdoor market where we got crepes and pastries (I had one made with dates that nearly brought tears to my eyes), and walked around feeling quite foreign. I knew that Montreal was largely French-speaking, but never having been anywhere out of the country (except for a ghastly two hours in Tijuana that I wish never to repeat) so I've never been in the lingual minority before. My podcast language lessons have lapsed, to put it mildly, so the only words I was able to understand were please, thank you, and most of the food words. I'm not sure how comfortable I would feel spending a long period of time this way, but for one day it was really cool. I'll post some pictures in a bit.
My parents departed for the Cape on Friday morning, and I have basically been either at work or asleep since. I'm off this evening, though, and hoping to spend some quality time with the b.h.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Okay, could people please stop dying now? Seriously?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

So Jamie and the s.o. arrived while I was at work on Sunday. They came down to the bar with the b.h. and ate while I worked. It was great to see them,and my night went by very quickly.
On Monday, we went downtown and got a pastry and a cup of coffee, and set off on foot to see a bit of local color.
We went to the capitol building to get a quick pic of Howard Dean's portrait, and somebody walked right into the picture. Then a lot of other people followed, most of them wearing several pounds of medals on their chests. I guess this is what we mean when we use the phrase "top brass." It was a bit intimidating, honestly. I turned around to discover that the b.h. had wandered to the other side of the very large entrance hall, inspecting some more traditional portraits. Within moments, he was lost in a sea of very imposing and important-looking people. Eventually the parade ended, and a guide began describing some of the features of said hall to the guests. I kept seeing the b.h.'s head pop up over large shoulders of serious men, looking helplessly at us while we giggled and wondered what all the fuss was about. When he finally got back to us, he said he's forgotten that the President of Macedonia was visiting.
"I was totally being followed by the Secret Service," he grinned. It was a bit unnerving, but mostly hilarious. We could not have looked more innocuous, the four of us with fair-trade coffee and cameras, but it's nice to know that those guys take their jobs seriously.
We drove in to Burlington, walked on the lakefront, and got lunch at a great little Asian restaurant that I believe was called A Single Pebble. I'll try to remember to post pictures later, but right now I am on the couch surrounded by dog love and loathe to get up. After lunch we drove to Burywater, stopped by the casa del Jerry and Ben, took more photos, swung over to the Cider mill, ate doughnuts (fresh, hot, CIDER doughnuts- yum!) and then shot pool and ate dinner at The Alchemist. Man, I LOVE that place. We came back to the house and watched a couple episodes of Eastbound and Down, which they had never seen and we happened to have gotten from Netflix that morning, and then hit the hay early. We got up early on Tuesday, went up to Barre to thrift shop (I scored two pairs of $5 corduroys and a $3 J Crew sweater-woot!) and had lunch at the co-op up there. We also visited the Maple farm just outside of town and fed the magic goat. I had to work at four, but Jamie and the s.so and the b.h. came in for a late drink and a light snack, so again my night was lovely and smooth.
They left early on Wednesday, and I napped and then got up to do some laundry and wash some dishes. Tonight I waited tables in the main dining room for the second time. It went relatively smoothly and I made good money and got home about an hour earlier than I normally do as a bartender. The b.h. is feeling ill, which is a huge bummer because my folks will be here tomorrow and for the next week. We are planning a trip to Montreal on Sunday, and I hope the b.h. doesn't miss out.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I can't believe it's been almost a week since my last post. Time is a'flyin'. So I worked on Tuesday night, a double on Wednesday, and had Thursday off. We're busy trying to get the house in order, since our friends from Georgia arrive today, stay until Wednesday, and then my parents arrive on Friday. It would be easier if we were not smack in the middle of a season change, as well. I had to bring the Meyer Lemon tree inside, where it doesn't have a real home yet, and I've dragged out the winter gear as well. It all needs to be laundered, along with the guest bedding.
I'm looking forward to having some company, and the weather looks like it will be gorgeous (barring the thirty-something temperature tonight, of course). Yesterday I bought some flowers at the Farmer's Market, and today I'll shop for beer and snack food. What more could a guest want, right?
In other news, I have finally utilized the neti pot I bought months ago. It feels really weird, but so far my sinuses seem to have improved.
Hoping we get to the World's Tallest File Cabinet this week. If we do, I'll be sure to post pics so you can see the glory for yourselves.
For now, I'm back to the grindstone.

Monday, September 14, 2009

I had a big list of stuff I needed when I set out today. We're having friends up from Georgia next weekend, and my parents a few days after that. So there were linens to replace. Also, I am in dire need of work shirts now that I am a server, because the uniform is more specific. So black button downs were on the list. You'd be surprised how difficult those are to find and, in my case, afford. Sorry, but I'm not dropping fifty bucks on a shirt made in China that I am going to be wearing and washing and ironing a couple times a week while sweating and humping food and drinks around.
So anyway, I did a whole lot of shopping. Found most of what I needed, minus the shirts. I even scored some Halloween costumes for the dogs while I was at the Goodwill. Of course, I have no intention of spoiling that surprise, so don't bother. You'll just have to wait.
On the way home, I was once again marveling at this place. I was telling the b.h. the other day that whenever I have a day off and I'm driving around, I kind of forget that we actually live here. It still feels like vacation, mostly because I have never lived in a place like this and the beauty of it still strikes me every day. Lately, the air has been a bit more crisp at night, and the trees are starting to blush just a little with the colors of fall. Here and there, small trees have already completely changed. As I was driving home tonight, the sun was setting behind me and the mountains were bathed in sunlight, and all I could think about was how they will look in the coming weeks as fall sets in. I can't wait.
Found out the other day that there is a cider mill in Burywater, complete with cider doughnuts (a la Ellijay, GA). Also, there are many places to pick apples. Now that I am starting to meet some locals I'm finally getting the really vital information. I have also been looking into cranberries. There are bog tours in some surrounding states, and that's on my short list. I still haven't identified the berries in the backyard (sheer laziness, I promise you), but I can't seem to get enough at a time to make anything of them anyway. Ah, well. Se la vie.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I was on the way to work yesterday when I saw a large group of teabaggers staging a protest. It was surprising, but the best part was that they were getting absolutely no positive response. In Athens, those people would have had an equal number of cheers and jeers. Here they were just kind of annoying and disruptive. I saw a woman with a sign that read "I (Heart) Joe Wilson", and I leaned out my window and suggested she move to South Carolina right away.
In other news, I have been working a lot, but feeling okay about it. I trained as a server for a couple of hours on Thursday night. It was very, very slow, and I was being trained by a guy who is pretty lackadaisical, to put it politely, about his service. The next night I showed up to be a food runner, and was informed that not only would I be waiting tables, but that my section was larger than a normal one, and that I was not the only brand new server who was in this position. Uh... okay, I guess. And it was, for the most part. I was very, very busy, but for the most part I was able to give better service than I ever had at that last restaurant.
Yesterday we went to the farmer's market. I got some lemon cucumbers, apples, local bacon for the b.h., and we each got a slice of pizza. Mine had goat cheese, tomatoes, and kale, and his had fresh sausage and pears. I have no idea how much longer the farmer's market will go, but I love it and I will be there until it's dne for the season.
We went to brunch at the Local Restaurant this morning, since I had been alerted by a pastry student that it would be especially awesome this week. It was. The theme was French, and there was a Pacific Northwestern table as well. The b.h. loaded up on meat and fish, while I had an omelet, a sour cherry crepe, fresh fruit, various cheeses, and a couple of amazing mushroom fritters. We'll definitely be doing that again.
So I'm off to do some more reading, then iron my shirt and head to work again. I'm off tomorrow, so hopefully I can get the house in order. We're having company next week, and the dog hairballs are getting restless.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I really need to get to bed, but I wanted to say something positive after that last post.
Last night President Obama (those words still make me giddy with relief) made a fantastic speech on Health Care. If you didn't see it, you should. It made sense, and he took a stand, and it made me proud.
Now, if only that whole "logic" thing would get contagious...
I just returned from chasing Kilgore across the street. We went out for a walk, and I failed to notice The Neighbor's cat in our side yard. Having a less than vice-like grip on the leash, I of course lost it when he bolted. The cat looked momentarily smug (this has happened before) while he watched the leash unwind to the length at which KG is normally pulled up short, left barking and whining in my grip, but then his smugness turned to panic as the dog was suddenly on top of him. Luckily, he managed to get away, but unluckily he bolted across the street and ran behind his own house, with KG in hot pursuit, followed by his (now fully extended) leash and a clunking plastic handle, which was followed by Wyatt and me. I was yelling at the dog while also yelling to The Neighbor, trying to reassure him that KG would not in fact, eat the cat. When Wyatt and I finally arrived on the scene, Wyatt proceeded to squat and do his business right at the neighbor's feet while Kilgore raced around behind and under the house in pursuit of the cat. Eventually (this really only took a minute or less, but it felt like an eternity), Kilgore got his leash tied around enough random boards and posts and whatnot that he was stuck. I handed Wyatt's leash to The Neighbor, apologizing profusely and promising a quick cleanup, and then made my way as carefully as possible (wearing clogs, which we all know are fabulous climbing shoes) down toward Kilgore. The yard is at an impossible angle, so there is an immediate drop off beside the driveway that drops even further behind the garage. In between there are piles of dirt and ash, as well as ditches (I presume they were dug to help water runoff, or they were dug by water runoff) spanned by rotting boards, and various posts, old shutters, and the like.
What I discovered, much to my dismay, was that despite The Neighbor's constant attention to his lawn, driveway, and various and sundry mechanical devices (he is forever trimming, refinishing, and puttering), the place was actually a total mess, and very dangerous to boot. There was no way for me to even get around back there to figure out where the leash was stuck, much less to untie it and get the dog out safely. I could barely reach him at all, due to the aforementioned mess and the lay of the land up here on the steepest block in Vermont. After nearly breaking my neck and slightly injuring my already-sore ankle, I got close enough to unhook the leash from KG's harness, then grabbed hold of him and dragged him back to where The Neighbor was waiting with Wyatt and Wyatt's business. I switched Wyatt's leash to KG, and then hustled both of them back across the street, apologizing over my shoulder.
I opened the door calmly, still smiling, and then closed it behind us and proceeded to spank Kilgore harder than I ever have before. I then grabbed a grocery bag, ran across to collect Wyatt's mess, put it in the trash, and came back inside and sat down and cried. Is this what a nervous breakdown feels like?
I have been burning the proverbial candle at both ends this week, working early and then late and then early, then going to a meeting at the Local Restaurant after my other job yesterday, where it was explained to us in no uncertain terms that we were expected to wait tables as well as bartend. Some of you may be aware that this is not exactly good news for me. After the meeting I went into my the office of the Big Boss (at least, he's our Big Boss, but he has many bosses, if that gives you an idea of what I'm dealing with) to discuss this. The end result is that I will not only be working seven days a week henceforth, but that I will likely be working at both jobs on one or two of those days. This is not what I was hoping for. I thought that when I went from four jobs to two that I would actually have some time to myself. I believe I was wrong.
So presently I am out of coffee and minus one dog leash, and reporting to work in four hours to be be trained to do something I really, really don't want to do. Tomorrow I will work from 7am to 3pm, then go home and change and report back at 5pm for another job (food runner, which is a waitress that doesn't have to talk to the guests as much) I don't want to do. Then I will bartend on Saturday and Sunday night, and Monday- well, I don't know, because the schedule is not up at either job for next week.
But I don't work full time, so I don't have health insurance.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

I went into a Local Resale Shop for the first time today. I was looking for some shirts that I can wear while bartending. Not having been to work, however, I was wearing jeans and a tee shirt. So I'm standing there flipping through a rack when a saleswoman approaches me. She asks if she can help me, and I reply that I am just looking around. She engages me in conversation, wherein she discovers that I have never been to the store before.
"I'm not really great at fashion..." I say in reply, and am about to say that I have fun trying and that's why I'm there, etc. etc.
She looks me up and down and says "Well, we don't really have a lot of t-shirts. We do have jeans."
Awkward. And hilarious. And then she just keeps on keeping on, and she will not leave me alone. I can't figure out if she was flirting with me or if she thought I was going to shoplift.
I didn't find anything to buy, unfortunately, but they did have some cool stuff.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Whew. There was some stress in the past few days regarding my second job, but things are ironed out. I think I'm going to be working every day for at least a couple weeks, but that's better than not enough work.
The restaurant is getting better. We've just changed the entire menu, and are still in the middle of getting the wine/beer/cocktail list together, but I am feeling more comfortable behind the bar, so the rest of it will come together.
The best thing is that I am getting to see a lot more of the b.h., since he is no longer getting up before dawn. It's been great.
Missing the wedding of a very good friend in Chicago this weekend due to lack of time and funds. Crushing. I have actually been dreaming about it. But I'm sure i will get a full report from T, and there are always pictures...

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Evidence.

"Please sign in, so we know how many corpses we're looking for if there's a car in the lot this evening."



Kilgore loves his new backpack. They say you should give high energy *cough* dogs a job to do.



Keep in mind that the camera makes them look farther away than they are. This one is right at the beginning, and they're not far ahead of us (maybe 50 feet), but are already much higher up.



Neato mushroom growing from a log.



At our rest stop. Wyatt's clearly had enough of our nonsense.



And here he is again, at his summit- about ten feet below the actual summit.



The view from the top.





Some other show-offs and their dog. That's Lake Champlain in the background.

Monday, August 31, 2009

So I've just worked Friday night, Saturday morning, Saturday night, Sunday morning, and Sunday night. And on my day off?
"Let's go hiking!"
Perhaps not my best idea. There is a difference between taking a walk in the woods and hiking. Normally when I walk in the woods, I breathe deeply, enjoying the smell of pine needles and damp earth, and I move along at a reasonably fast clip, trying to keep up with Kilgore (dog of the long legs), as well as attempting to force Wyatt (he of the barrel-shaped body and corgi legs) to get some actual exercise. I occasionally feel tired after a walk in the woods, but I never feel sore.
Today we decided to hike the Camel's Hump. There are a number of trails in this park, and we picked the one that we thought seemed the most reasonable. Now, in hindsight I will say that the word "strenuous" which was featured prominently on the website about our trail should have given me pause. Unfortunately, I have learned (for the umpteenth time) today not only about hindsight (20/20! It's True!), but also about how the Theory of Relativity applies to distance.
So the Monroe Trail, which ends at the summit, is approximately two and a half miles long. This seems like a perfectly reasonable distance until you realize, possibly too late, that it is almost vertical. Hence, what would normally be a Zen-like stroll turned into a grueling and treacherous test of wills and knees. My deep breaths came only in the form of gasps, usually after either I or Wyatt almost bit it and went face-first into a chunk of boulder or sailing over the edge of a precipice that was too steep to look over. I saw no scenery on the way up or down, unable to see the forest for the wet, muddy, rock-filled (not strewn, mind you- this path was more rock than dirt) trail. My neck is killing me from spending so many hours looking down.
All the while we were being passed in both directions by smiling, fit Vermonters of all ages, many of them at least twenty years older than me. At one point the b.h. and I stopped to rest. After water and a snack, we were talking about how we were uncertain whether to go on. We had both been afraid to ask the people we passed who were on their way down how far we were from the top, but since we had already been going for two hours we figured we must be close. Just then, another couple came along the trail.
"I'd say you're close- what, honey- maybe a quarter of the way to go?" Her husband nodded in agreement. Neither of us wanted to turn back, because at that point not getting to see the view from the top after all that effort would have been too much to bear.
Forty minuted later we reached a clearing. There were signs for several different connecting trails, as well as the one to the summit, a mere .3 miles further. What we didn't know was that the last bit was the most grueling by far, and the scariest. People kept passing us and looking at Wyatt in wonderment.
"How did you get here?" they would ask him, knowing that he was obviously the smartest of the group.
"The real question is how he's going to get down," I would answer, trying my best to smile through the pain and fear.
In the end, Wyatt was unable to make the last climb, which was only ten or twenty feet from the summit. So I sat with him while KG and the b.h. went up. Sat, in fact, in a small puddle, which was just large enough for my entire ass to fit in it and soak thoroughly.
The view from the top was spectacular. Pictures to follow. I only wish it had been earlier and warmer so we could have stayed up there to enjoy it more. As it was it was getting dark on our way down.
The funny thing about the way down is that Wyatt was completely fearless, and outpaced me by a long shot. I eventually stopped worrying and took his leash off so he didn't have to wait up. The last hour of the descent was excruciating, and my knees, ankles and calves are still killing me, but I'm glad we went. The good news is that the boys have been sleeping most of the day. Next time I think we'll opt for something a little less strenuous.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Smack in the middle of two double shifts. Today was uneventful at the LHFS, except for an endless parade of screaming kids.
The Local Restaurant was iffy, at best. Second night in a row of barbacking (which is nothing like barebacking, except for feeling slightly fucked afterward) for a bartender who seems to have no clue what's going on.
Last night I worked with the Manager In Name Only, who is as spastic as she is sensitive, and so can never be asked what the fuck she is doing, even in polite terms. Everything is an insult to her. It's a shame I didn't think to just go ahead and insult her, since asking politely what exactly she wanted me to do set her off anyway. I know how it is to feel overwhelmed, but if you can't stop and think a minute when the proverbial shit hits the fan and figure out what you need help with, then I can't very well help you now, can I? Never mind that I tried to ask her at the beginning of the night exactly how she wanted to divide duties. There is tha bar, and then there is the Service Bar, where all of the wait staff come to get the drinks for everyone in the dining room. Under normal circumstances, one person serves the bar and the other the service bar, and you each back each other up as needed. This despite the fact that the bartender makes all of the tips from the bar and the service bar, and the barback gets a slightly higher hourly wage and only ten percent of the bartender's tips. I knew what I was getting into as far as the money, but I had no idea that she would run back and forth behind the bar like a bull in a china shop, making half of the drinks on a ticket and then running back down the bar to start (and never finish) another task. Needless to say it was quite hectic.
Tonight I worked with The Young and The Clueless, who is a sweet girl that has no business behind a bar (not even of legal drinking age). She wear chipped nail polish (against health code, which no manager seems to have noticed) and pronounces the J in the word "Jammon" on the tapas menu. It is not her fault, but it is horribly embarrassing. I am looking forward to being alone behind the bar tomorrow night. I don't care how chaotic it gets. At least i will know what the hell is going on.
All in all it has been good, though. There are people there that I can actually relate to, which is a dramatic improvement over my last restaurant job.
I will miss the "Local" Health Food Store, but I do look forward to the Farmer's Market and extra b.h. snuggling on weekend mornings. There are whispers of a road trip in the coming weeks. The b.h.'s birthday is coming up, and I think he'd rather have a bit of fun than anything I can wrap in a bow. We'll see if we can pull it off. I won't mention it now as I have no wish to jinx it.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Remember when bands made videos? I love this.
These are all over the yard and the woods behind the house. Does anybody know what they are?



This is what the berries look like.



They don't get any bigger than this. They taste like a cross between a raspberry and -well, something less sweet than a raspberry. I don't know how else to describe them. They seem to grow wild all over the place here. Hoping I can get enough berries to make some jam.

In other fruit-related news, the b.h. and I went and picked raspberries and blueberries today. Here are some shots of our haul:





The blueberry bushes were very sparse, but we were determined. We wound up with two quarts of rasp and one quart of blue. Also picked up a dozen eggs, three large cukes, and peppers, a few of which neither of us could identify.

This weekend, there will be pie.
There is a regular customer at the Local Health Food Store who has severe cerebral palsy, as well as extreme OCD. Consequently, he comes through with a shopping basket over one arm, launching himself from one set of shelves to the next for support, stopping each time to put his basket down and front and face product, then picking it up and launching himself to the next set of shelves.
It must take that guy a long time to shop.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Son of a motherfucking bitch. Ted Kennedy is dead, and I have no one to talk to and no cigarettes. I swear I thought I had two old stale ones floating around here somewhere.

Sleep is not likely.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Ahoy, Matey.



You should probably try some of this because it is very good. Also, it is pirate-related.
Tonight was my first solo flight behind the bar at the Local Restaurant. It wasn't a trial by fire, but it was certainly a trial by eight thousand fucking fancy fruity drinks. The hardest part was figuring out the computer system, actually. I had almost no customers that actually stayed to eat at the bar. The ones that did were very regular regulars that I had already met, and they were great. And I guess I impressed my boss to some degree. Basically the shit hit the fan in that place tonight, and rather than being available to me he was stuck in the kitchen expediting ttickets for over an hour, and when he returned I hadn't burned anything down, so things were fine. Again, I'm not saying it was pretty, but I worked it out.
The "Local" Health Food Store was pretty easy today. I wasn't really awake until about two hours into my shift, and since the weather was crappy I had many more customers than usual and spent a lot of my time doling out recommendations for wine and beer. Three more shifts and I am outta there. I will miss some of my co-workers, but certainly not the drive. After that I'm hoping to get some permanent shifts at the Local Co-Op.
Funny story about that, by the way. The manager in charge of Wine Related Stuff happened in to the Local Restaurant the other day. I did not know who she was at first, but I thought she looked familiar. Also familiar (even more so, actually) was the guy she was with. The guy asked for my boss. He was dropping off an application for employment. Co-op Lady recognized me, and mentioned to her friend that I was the one from Athens. And it turns out that he not only used to live in Athens, but he used to run a club next door to the bar where I worked for eight years. The phrase "small world" doesn't do justice to the weirdness here.
Anyway, I finally have some cash in hand and I also have a day off tomorrow. So I guess I will spend my day off paying some bills and doing some laundry and trying to memorize the ingredients for all of our ridiculous cocktails. Now to bed.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Starting to feel at home in the Local Restaurant. This was Night Three of my training, and I already know several regular customers and most of the front of house staff. It is good to be behind a bar again, honestly.
At the end of the night, for the third night in a row, we were visited by Chef Gerard, who is a Big Wig at the Culinary School. It seems he has a reputation for being, well, French. As in, crazy and irritable and kind of scary. So far he has been exceedingly friendly and often hilarious. Tonight he asked me where I had come from. I rattled off my usual abbreviated "Just arrived from" and "Grew up in" answer, with the addition of some more specific information about another French Chef I used to work for.
"I know eem well," he smiled. "Ee ees back een New Orleans now."
There was some further discussion about the restaurant in Chicago where I worked for the Other French Chef, and about why he left (and has now returned to) New Orleans. I actually think about OFC a lot. He was one of the best people I have ever worked for. Under shite circumstances, of course, but that's often where the best experiences happen.
"Small whereld," mused Chef Gerard.
Indeed it is.
At the end of the night he returned for a nightcap (Pellegr1no). He was in a good mood, having entertained some friends earlier, and he was very animated. Another Chef (The Tall One from yesterday's post), Peter, was there again, as well as a dishwasher named Todd. Peter was telling CG that the Dishwasher was really interested in learning to cook, and that he was thinking about going to Another Cooking School in Florida.
"They will take your money, and you won't learn sheet," answered CG without hesitation. "Guys come out of there, they don know wheech end of the knife to cut weeth."
"So where do you think he should go?" Peter continued, knowing the answer already.
"Ere, of course!"
Peter continued the conversation, telling CG that Todd couldn't afford it ("We will pro bebbly geeve you more scholarsheep than them anyway"), and showing him the textbook that Todd had taken out of the library, as well as a spiral bound notebook full of notes that he was taking.
"He isn't even in school, Chef. He just wants to learn."
CG took the notebook and flipped through it. The thing was half full already.
" I weesh I write like you," laughed CG. "No one can reed my writeeng."
He handed the notes back to Todd, basically saying that they could figure something out. Todd was obviously gratified. It was a great moment. I should say also that Todd is exactly the kind of guy I would hire if I were doing the hiring. He has made some tattoo-related errors, and he could use some help in the dental department, but he is polite and professional, and he busts his ass. Dishwashing is not glamorous, or easy, or even pleasant. But it is a good gauge of how serious a person is. And it is a job that is integral to the running of a restaurant.
As he was leaving tonight, I very quietly remarked to him that Chef Peter had done him a big favor. He ducked his head and smiled, a really big smile that made it clear that he knew what this could mean. I thanked him and went back to the bar, feeling as good for him as he probably felt himself.
When I returned, CG was holding court.
"I was een New York last wheek," he was telling Annie (My Trainer this evening) and Peter, and I see this beautiful black woman. I like woman, so I ave to talk to er. And she say, 'Culinary School? What's eet called?' An I tell er, and she say, 'an where ees that?' an I tell er, and she say 'Oh, I ave an old roommate oo work at one of dose', and I say 'really?' what's ees name?' and eets Peter!"
Annie was laughing out loud. CG had her at "I like woman," and the rest was just icing on the cake.
So far so good. I hope things continue to go well.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I nearly forgot! Last night's Customers of the Night:

1) A young lady with whom many people on the staff were obviously familiar. She looked remarkably like Sarah Vowell, which might be the only thing that kept me from choking the shit out of her for being a condescending cunt. The girl who was training me was, as I said, very sweet, and though she was not terribly well-spoken, did her best to convey certain facts pertaining to the Young Lady's order. The Young Lady responded by being simultaneously smug, condescending, and unhelpful. She talked on her cell phone at the bar, which I already find kind of grating (and rude), but the volume was preposterous and the subject matter- again, fucking smug. Trying to make a big show of her worldliness, she was. She even went so far as to question whether we had given her "real" B & B. Fucking seriously. As if we might have somehow mistaken the letters (and also as if she hadn't fucking watched us pour it from the bottle two feet away from her). Not to mention that if you aren't my dad, or at least my dad's age, do you really even drink B & B, much less critique it? Seriously? My Trainer was completely oblivious to the attitude she was being shown, and I didn't bother to point it out to her. I mean, why burst her bubble, right?
2) This guy wasn't even a customer of mine (er- ours. I was training). He came down after we had already closed and the only people in the bar were myself, My Trainer, and a chef whose name I have forgotten- I'll call him The Tall Chef for now. The guy was slightly inebriated, and loudly but politely asking to see a manager. I told him I would find the Manager right away, but as I was turning to go he started to tell me why he wanted to see The Manager. It seems that the man's waiter had spilled a beer in his lap.
"But I'm not even mad about that. No- I have worked in places like this before, so I know how things can happen. And he cleaned it up right away and he was great. And he got me another beer and everything. The thing is, my bill came-" he paused here, either for effect or to belch, I couldn't be sure-" and he charged me for the beer."
"I'm terribly sorry sir. I'm sure it was an error. We'll take care of it right away."
"No. He took it off the bill. He took it off before he ran my credit card. But the thing is, it should have never been on there."
"I'm sure it was merely an oversight. You know, accidents happen, and people get flustered. I'm really sorry that it happened. I will get The Manager."
Except I couldn't get The Manager, because I had no idea where he was or how to page him. So I asked My Trainer to. She made a couple phone calls.
"He's on a break," she said, loudly enough for the man to hear. (Remember the thing she did with the milk? Yeah.)
"But he's on his way here, right?" I said, looking at her and flicking my eyes at The Customer in a wink-wink nudge-nudge fashion.
"Uh... yeah. He'll be right over."

Luckily The Customer and His Wife were feeling celebratory. So I went on about my business, wiping down and cleaning up the now closed bar. The Tall Chef ordered another beer, and when The Customer noticed his chef's uniform, started chatting him up.
"Aw, man," he slurred. "You the chef?"
"I'm one of them," replied TTC.
"Aw, maaan," he slurred again. "The food tonight was eexlnt."
"I'm glad you enjoyed it."
"Yeah, the meal was perfect. I have no complaints about the meal."
"Thanks," replied TTC, turning slightly in his seat in a useless attempt to close the conversation.

I can't remember the details of the conversation that followed, mostly due to exhaustion, but suffice to say that it was long and jovial, and we discovered that The Customer and His Wife (who was standing in the background smiling uncomfortably and looking at the exit the whole time, and who, it is worth mentioning, was never introduced or brought into the conversation by her new husband) were on their honeymoon, that they were congratulated by each one of us when he announced it (four times), and that by the time The Manager had returned (probably from smoking, but I don't know for sure), the guy was considerably deflated. In fact, The Tall Chef was in mid sentence when The Manager returned, and The Manager spent a minute or two poking his head around corners looking for an angry customer before one of us finally cut in and introduced them.
The end of the story is rather boring. The guy repeated his complaint several times, each time stressing that he didn't "expect anything," but that he "thought we should know" because he has "been in the business." What he got was a business card from The Manager and the promise of a free meal should they ever return. Thank the gods they live a few hours away. Hopefully we'll never see them again.