Sunday, January 31, 2010

When asked if I would like to participate in the Secret Santa exchange at the Local Grocery, I did not hesitate before saying "Hell NO" in the politest way possible. I never heard another thing about it, until the other day. Carol is a sub in my department, and since two of my co-workers were on vacation, we had a few shifts together. Carol was also smart enough to avoid the Secret Santa Trap, but she works quite closely with several people who were not. It turns out that The girl who organized this exchange didn't get her gift. There was some confusion, and West Coast Karen actually felt bad and bought her something to make her feel better. A couple weeks passed, and then The Organizer finally received her belated gift, in the form of whichever version of the bible Born Again Christians subscribe to. There are two problems with this: First, this renders the "secret" part completely moot, since she obviously got it from the only Saved participant; and second, it's not Secret Fucking Jesus.
Poor Organizer. Oh well, that'll teach her.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Current temp: 2 degrees, feels like -19. The high today? 3.

I got out of bed earlier than I had to in order to drive the b.h. to class. He was nice enough to go out and start the car to get it warm. I proceeded to make a wrong turn, because I was confused about where he was going, and it took more than twice as long to get him there as it should have. He might have gotten there faster by walking. Then I came home to find that one of the dogs had thrown up on the couch. Fortunately it mostly landed on things that I could put immediately into the wash machine, but still...
I hope this is not indicative of the kind of day I am about to have.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

On Tuesday I showed up at work to find that the basement had flooded* and that we would not be opening the lounge. The live music was canceled, and there was a nice mildewy odor permeating the lower floor of the restaurant, which is where the bar is located. So, that was a nice start to my day. Anyway, I was the only person who was available to wait on any customers until the dining room opened upstairs. My first two customers were women, both of them were alone, and both were very nice and easy to wait on. They were obviously busy, one of them had paperwork and the other had a book, and so I got their orders and pretty much buggered off to leave them in peace. About fifteen minutes later, two women came in with a baby that couldn't have been two years old yet. Despite the fact that the lounge was closed and had obviously flooded, and despite the fact that the only place to sit was at the bar, where the stools are very high and where there is a damn bar and where you wouldn't want to put a baby if you had half a brain, they sat at the bar. With the baby. As soon as they put her in the chair she was yawning and rubbing her eyes. It was obviously nearing her bedtime. These women were, I figured out, the mother and the babysitter. They ordered food and cocktails, and proceeded to take up what limited space I had with a child who was soon yelping and bothering the other customers and act like it was perfectly natural.
I know that I am not the most kid-friendly person in the world, but I don't mind serving them when it is appropriate. And honestly, if we were the only open restaurant and they just needed something to eat, I would have understood. But to sit a kid in a completely unsafe chair at a bar when she is obviously tired and then feed her clam chowder (which was so hot she started screaming when she took a bite) and Caesar salad and let her scream in a room full of people who are trying to relax and enjoy a meal is just plain rude. All of the waitstaff were giving me looks of pity when I went upstairs to get some bread. I wanted to die. Actually, I wanted the women to die. But I didn't say anything. And I think maybe I should have. If anybody has a suggestion about what I might say (other than the expletives that immediately came to mind) in that situation is welcome to say so. Personally I feel that it is a manager's job to address guests whose behavior is affecting other guests, but none chose to come to my aid.
in other news, we had a meeting last week at the Local Restaurant with, among some other important people, the Director of Operations, during which Too Loud Trixie made a complete ass of herself and embarrassed everyone into a mortified silence. I used to think she was just a terrifyingly stupid redneck, but now I believe she is certifiably insane, or at least a sociopath. And hopefully she has just gotten herself fired. We'll see. The behavior in that meeting was bad enough, but she followed it up by talking about where to buy some pot in front of the 15 year-old daughter of one of our managers. I'll keep you posted. My fingers are crossed.

*I read later in the paper that we narrowly missed a very large flood- town-wide, because of an enormous ice floe on the river.
"Most wars, after all, present themselves as humanitarian endeavors to help people."
-Howard Zinn

"I'm quite illiterate, but I read a lot."
-J. D. Salinger

Boy, we lost Howard Zinn and J.D. Salinger in 24 hours. I hope this isn't indicative of the kind of year 2010 is going to be.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Saturday night I got to work and discovered that I didn't have a barback. My regular barback, Taylor, was out of town for the weekend, and he had told management four weeks prior, and then told them again a week later when the schedule went up with his name on it. So when Harried Manager came down at 5:30 and asked where my barback was, I snapped back at him
"I don't know, Harried Manager, where is my barback? Did you schedule one?" There followed an exchange wherein he tried to accuse Taylor of not getting his shift covered, and then me getting argumentative, then him telling me I had done the same thing when I left town, then me telling him he was full of it and that I had everything covered and he screwed it all up (which was only partially true. Too loud Trixie threw a fit because I hadn't asked her to cover the shifts, so she bullied him into taking the shifts away from the more deserving and far more talented and professional Taylor) and then I realized too late that Too loud Trixie was sitting at the bar smirking. She thoroughly enjoys it when other people are angry at each other. Thoroughly. I immediately backed off, patted Harried Manager on the shoulder and said that there was nothing for it and we would just have to roll with it.
What wound up happening was TLT had three beers and made an ass of herself with a customer, then she left after apologizing that she couldn't possibly help me out (as if I would ever want her to). The b.h. finished working in the kitchen around seven, and he came downstairs right about the time shit started to hit the fan. He asked if he could help at all and I asked if he remembered how to barback, and we ended up working behind the bar together for the first time in two years. It went very well, all things considered. It was probably the busiest Saturday night we'd had since the leafers left, and martinis were on special, so I must have made about a hundred and fifty of those, but in the end it all worked out just fine. Harried manager remembered after some reflection, that Taylor and he had in fact discussed this weekend, and that he had said not to worry since Saturdays had not been very busy lately. He said this with the proper amount of sheepishness and regret in his voice so I didn't have to bludgeon him to death with an empty Maker's Mark bottle. In the end we made a good bit of money and i didn't have to tip anyone out, so all was well.

I was at the Local grocery on Sunday when I overheard one co-worker say to the other
"I'm going to buy propane at the wahlmart."
The other responded
"Nope. I have a history of pyrotechnics in my family you know. I started my first fire when I was eight."
"You're scaring me. Are you joking?"

What followed was a story thatIi had actually already heard, but that I had forgotten and thought you might get a kick out of. The Firestarter had a lot of brothers, and no girls to hang around with when she was growing up except a couple of cousins, who were always mean to her. She tried and tried to be friends and to hang out with them whenever possible, but they would always go away to a cabin they had and she wasn't invited. She asked repeatedly to be brought to said cabin, which was not far from their home, but was a fun getaway, and they wouldn't let her. So one day when nobody was at the cabin, she went and got two cans of propane and burned it down. This at age eight. My other co-worker, not having heard this story before, was in total shock.

"Oh my god Firestarter! What happened? Did you get in trouble?"
"No. Nobody knows it was me. They still don't. I'm waiting for the right time to tell them."

I think the funniest part of this is that the Firestarter is, as far as i can tell, a stable, responsible adult. She is married and has a kid and works hard and never calls in and is totally dependable. Just don't push her, I guess. I'd like to introduce her to Too Loud Trixie. Or at least Trixie's house.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Oh, great. Somebody just pointed out another brilliant blog that I can spend my scant free time with.
Check out the one from Andy Warhol.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Last night I spent a couple of hours on the phone with a friend. We had e-mailed and texted back and forth several times earlier in the day,because he was having some relationship issues and needed a bit of perspective. The Digital Couch, I called it, and I still don't know how much good I did him.

This morning I had my once a week shift with Kay, a woman who is nearish my mom's age and an absolute joy to be around on Saturday mornings. She is very soft-spoken and always in a good mood. We usually don't say a whole lot but there is enough small talk to keep things friendly. In contrast, many of the other people who work at that hour are heard loud and clear through the early morning quiet.

Today Kay told me that she had taken yesterday off from her full-time job because it was the two-year anniversary of her husband's death. She spent time going through some of her old things and came across a box of love letters from him.

"I have to get rid of a lot of stuff," she said, a little sheepishly. "I have way too much junk in my house."
"You don't mean to say that you're going to throw away those letters?" I responded, possibly with more alarm than I should have, considering the fact that we barely know each other.
"Well, I don't know why anybody else would want to read them, and I already read them again."
"I'm pretty sure your daughters and your grandchildren would want you to save them. I mean, you can edit them if there are any embarrassing details in there, but I really hope you won't throw them away."

She seemed to think about it for a second, and then changed the subject. We continued to work, exchanging tips on restaurants and movies. As she finished her shift, she said

"You're a wise woman. I think I'm going to go home and go through those letters and see if I can't find a nicer box to put them in."

I feel an inexplicable sense of relief.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

My friend Louise is a fantastic deejay. Check out her awesome EweToob station here. Almost enough to make me forget that I am disgusted by the Supreme Court today.

Monday, January 18, 2010

We just saw The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. I recommend it highly. Terry Gilliam is a genius. Indescribably beautiful.

Vacation, Part 4

On Monday, we woke up early and had breakfast with my parents. By "breakfast", I mean "leftover pizza". The b.h. had some homework to do, and my dad was taking down the Christmas decorations, so my mom and I went out to do some shopping. I had various things that I wanted and can't easily get up here, so she patiently drove me around and I collected various beers, some dog stuff from Trader J0e's, and a couple other items that are not interesting enough to post about. I also went to her chiropractor, which was a huge relief because I had a pinched nerve in my neck and then drove for two days and I was really out of whack. We got back to the house around five, and snacked while we waited out traffic. Around six, we headed back into the city to have dinner with the b.h.'s brother.
We ate at Cafe Baba Reeba, a tapas place in Lincoln Park where I used to work a million years ago. The menu has changed a bit, but our old favorites were still on there. We started with a beer. I had Cane and Ebel, a lovely hoppy rye number from Two Brothers, a local brewery of which I had never heard before this visit. It was fantastic. As soon as we were seated, the manager, who is a friend of mine from all those years ago, sent us a pinxto (pronounced peen-cho, in case you care) plate. This is basically a sampling of one-bite tapas. My favorite was the goat cheese croqueta, but I also loved the cheese and membrillo and the mushroom and rice croqueta. The b.h. and his brother were partial to the shortrib stuffed piquillo pepper. Next up were a couple of salads, one with endive and blue cheese and quince and walnuts, and the other was a citrusy thing that I can't remember right now.
I also had fried green peppers (no breading but plenty of sea salt), tortilla espanola, and patatas bravas. I don't remember what all the guys ate, but I can assure you that there was a lot of meat and some fish and they loved every bite.

Crap. Now I'm hungry.

Anyway, we had a long and satisfying dinner, followed by too many desserts (also sent by the manager), and then we dropped the b.h.'s brother off at home and returned to my parents' house for stretchy pants and crossword puzzles.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

"What IS that smell?" asked the chef loudly, emerging from the kitchen at the Local Grocery. (Yes, we have a chef at the Local Grocery. As you can imagine the food in the deli is better than average- for a grocery.) Customers turned their heads.
"It's a really lovely organic Italian Blue Cheese," I said, forcing a smile rather than screaming at him. "You know, hand crafted, tasty..."
I hoped that the customers could hear me as well as I knew they had heard him.
"It smells like manure!"
I looked at Nate, who was working in the deli and obviously as mortified as I was by this conversation.
"Yeah, well, welcome to cheese, chef. "Where the best things often have the strongest smell, you know, chef?"
"It smells like manure."

He walked away and I turned to Nate, exasperated.
"Does he know how stupid he sounds saying stuff like that while he's wearing a chef's coat?"
"Well, he's a classy guy."

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Intermittent shouting lasts about three or four minutes. It is followed by a crash and then silence. As i round the corner near the deli, a mother is crouched speaking to her six-year-old boy.
"I need you to understand that you aren't respecting this space."
The boy is silent, looking around for something else to destroy. A broken cup is several feet away.
"Do you hear me? Elliot, do you hear me? Elliot? Elliot?"
Ahhhh. Now I'm really back.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Vacation, Part 3

On Sunday the b.h. and I drove into the city to meet his brother and our friend T for brunch. T was eager for us to meet his new girlfriend, who was visiting from Pennsylvania. The story of their meeting is long and complicated, but for now they are having a long-distance relationship. This is a first for T, and as a veteran myself I have been doing my best to advise him. Another complicating factor is that this woman, we'll call her B- even though that makes them TB as a couple, is much younger than T and I. But so far so good. T seems quite happy, and it has been ages since his last girlfriend. Also, historically T has made some choices in lady partners that have dismayed those of us who are closest to him. Dismayed because his choices became our crosses to bear, and frankly when he broke it off with the last one we all about threw a party. But I digress.
We picked up the b.h.'s brother at his new apartment, which was quite nice. We then called and woke T and B and asked if they would like a ride to the restaurant. After a moment of bleary indecision, B said hell yes they could be ready and we made our way toward T's house. I accidentally took a long way around, because I haven't spent enough time in the city in years and I sometimes forget the shortcuts. This was just as well because T and B needed some time to get dressed and wake up.
At first glance B didn't look much different than most of the women that T has dated- smallish, cute in a girl-next-door way, and well dressed. I find it hilarious that T lands so many women with such great style, because his wardrobe resembles mine for the most part- jeans, boots, band (or in his case motorcycle) t-shirt. Anyway, when they got in the car, the b.h. made a joke and she immediately responded in kind and the conversation was off. It wasn't like we were all particularly chatty, but there was absolutely no awkwardness. We ate at Publican. Brunch consisted of a waffle with honey infused butter and a side of house made ricotta and acorn squash for me, fried French toast with sour cherries for T, which we split and swapped. The b.h. and his brother ordered meats with sides of meat and meat on top, as well as house made pork rinds. They were thrilled. B had eggs poached in red wine with some kind of bacon stuff. The coffee was good and strong and endless. The beer and wine lists were both beautiful, and left me wishing that a) I didn't have to drive, and b) I was the kind of person who can drink beer with breakfast. This is a place where the b.h. is considering trying to get an internship after he finishes school. After that meal I can comfortably say that I am on board.
After brunch we drove back north a bit and went to my favorite stores: Myopic Book Store, Reckless Records (the b.h. picked up the new Johnson and Molina record on vinyl-yay!), and Buffal0 Exchange, which is a place where I have found some amazing clothes at great prices (they have a mixture of new and used and usually a fabulous selection). I wish we had one here. B and I hit it off so well that I didn't even realize how well we were hitting it off. We immediately went into girl mode when we started clothes shopping, and often picked out the same things. Fortunately she is tiny and so we had no risk of competing for the same items, but instead started pointing things out to each other. She got a new wool coat that was longer and warmer than the one she was wearing (which looked remarkably like my coat, actually). I ended up buying a new hat and a tall pair of blue and orange striped socks, which I will post photos of once I get the camera re-charged.
After shopping we drove the b.h.'s brother back to his house, and then were all hungry again, so we went to another restaurant which is owned and run by the same people who have Publican. I honestly can't remember what it is called. This restaurant is brand new, and located in a former gas station that also used to house one of my favorite dives, The Pontiac Cafe. It has gotten quite a face lift. Now featuring Mexican food and an excellent selection of craft beers, it is also clean and elegant without feeling pretentious. The hostess who greeted us was beautiful in a hipster way, which is a look often accompanied by a shite attitude. Not in this case. Our waitress was also cute and tattooed and completely lovely. The food was spectacular. The menu is small, but tacos were only a couple dollars apiece. They were also small, but the ingredients were fresh and of great quality. I can't remember what we all ate- damn me for not writing this sooner. I remember an enormous salad that we all shared. The guacamole was addictive, and the chips (which were obviously made in house) hearty and crunchy and fabulous. I found the salsas disappointing, but again- BRAND NEW. I'm sure they will improve. I ordered a West Coast IPA and two tacos, and ate enough salad to feed an army. It was perfect. I hated to leave. But, we had left my parents in charge of the dogs for the whole day so we had to. We had a quick drive back and a quiet evening with my parents and some crossword puzzles. That is what vacation is about.

Vacation, Part 2

We went home after pizza and watched the hockey game with my parents. When I was younger, I was a huge hockey fan. Sometime around my early twenties, I realized that professional athletes were largely over-paid, crybaby assholes and I was over it. This was also around the time that I moved out of my parent's house for good and started going to see live music on a very regular basis. In my opinion, music is much better than sports because with a good band, everybody cheers and everybody wins. Even when I was a sports fan the poetry of sports never had the effect on me that the poetry of music has.
All that being said, I will admit to enjoying that game immensely. The Bl@ckhawks were playing St Louis, and this is a bitter and long standing rivalry. At one point, I was in the living room watching the game with my mom while everybody else was crowded into the back room watching on the larger TV. They were all very loud and animated, but my mom was just muttering quietly to herself.
"Why don't you go fuck yourself?" she asked of one member of the St. Louis team. To another, she mentioned something he should do with his stick that I am certain was not physically possible. The F-bombs were dropping. Often. "Jag off" was bandied about frequently as well. I had forgotten how much I liked that one. I finally burst out laughing, and she looked at me quizzically.
"It's just nice to know I'm not the only one."
"No- you don't take after strangers."

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Vacation, Part 1

We're back. I have eaten my weight in pizza and cookies and baked goods, as well as drunk my weight in beer I can't procure in The Green Mountain State.

When we got to Flint, Michigan I was still wide awake. In fact, even at Lansing I felt fine. I imagine that part of it was the leftover adrenaline from driving in a near whiteout just after London, Ontario for about half an hour. Either way, we had crossed into Canada and back, and 180 miles from Chicago I realized that I could in fact make the entire drive in one day. So I called my parents to ask if they might leave a light on, only to be told that we were half an hour from hitting a wall that we would be stupid to try and drive through. The Lake effect Snow that Northwest Indiana and Southern Michigan are famous for was pouring down just past Kalamazoo, five inches in two hours, and where cars had attempted to get through they were piling up. Good that I called, then.
The b.h. and I stopped at a Mot3l Six, where dogs are welcome. He checked us in while I walked the parking lot with the boys. Our room was warm and set apart from other occupied rooms by our request. I took a quick shower and popped open an Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout that I had brought along for just such an occasion. At ten and a half percent alcohol, I have oft referred to it as "Mommy's Night Cap". On the television, which was static-ey and broken, every channel featured a map of the state in the corner with the words "Winter Storm Warning" and large red spots beginning at the border of the next county. All anyone could talk about was the massive amount of snowfall. We turned the TV off and tried to sleep.
There were two beds, and since both dogs were nervous (they don't like hotels because they have no idea where they are and there are weird noises in every direction all night long) I suggested we each sleep in a bed with a dog. The b.h. said he would rather sleep with me, so first he and I got in the Left Bed together. Wyatt jumped up after us, and Kilgore wandered around the room whining nervously until I got in the Right Bed with him. Then Wyatt moved over to the Right Red and soon we were all asleep. At some point they managed to crowd me so much that I was overheated, so I climbed carefully out from under the covers and moved back to the Left Bed with the b.h. The next thing I knew Wyatt was back with me, and I was spooned on either side by him and the b.h. I fell back asleep. I woke up again when Kilgore started crying, but before I could register what was happening he stopped. I awoke again, still in the Left Bed, now with Wyatt and the b.h. was in the Right Bed with Kilgore, who was now quiet. When I finally woke in the morning, Kilgore and Wyatt and I were all in the Left Bed, and the b.h. was by himself in the Right. I have no idea how or when that happened. So, a good night's sleep for everybody then.
Despite all that activity, I felt totally refreshed when I woke up, and we were soon back on the road to Chicago. Though we were moving along very quickly, the roads were still quite messy in places and I was glad we had stopped for the night when I saw how many cars were stranded along the way. We reached my parents' house in just over two hours, and were soon enjoying another cup of coffee and some homemade chili for lunch.
For dinner, we went out to Louisa's pizza. This is a tradition whenever we go home, since for some reason there is nothing resembling Chicago pizza anywhere else in the country and since I was raised on it I miss it all the time. Louisa is 87 years old, and she used to work for the guys at Pizzeria Uno and Due (not sure if I spelled that right but I don't like their pizza much so I'm not worried about giving them proper credit) way back in the day. Her restaurant is run by her and her family, and it is full of over-sized photos of her children and grandchildren, and often features Sinatra blaring loudly from the speakers.
Louisa was in attendance that night, and when my mom told her that the b.h. and I were visiting and that we had had her pizza for Christmas dinner, she brought out a plate of shortbread cookies for the table.
"These were made by my Irish friend, but they're pretty good. I cut my hand so I didn't bake my Italian cookies for Christmas, but I'm making some tomorrow so if you come back later in the week make sure you call ahead and I'll put some aside for you. These here are Irish, but they're very good anyway."
And so we were home.

My friend Rebekah is an animal portrait artist. My sister and her husband had this done for the b.h. and me. Isn't it lovely?