Thursday, September 11, 2008

Everybody's Workin' For the Weekend, Right?

I would like to use this opportunity to announce my retirement from the restaurant game, and standing here in front of you, I consider myself, the unluckiest man in the world. Nah, not really, I'm super excited. All I've ever done, pretty much, since entering the so-called work-force fourteen years ago was food service, and I can't wait to do something else. I realized that I love cooking, like cooks, but hate chefs and their attitudes. I love Gordon Ramsey, and his "the F-Word" on BBC is bloody excellent. Ordinary British people and low-level celebrities work his kitchen for a night and see how many people choose to pay per course, and he busts on them or congratulates them accordingly. Also included is a behind the scenes at Ramsey's personal projects, like brewing ale and a look at raising animals to eat, and they show how to kill 'em, cause it's British! (It's off-putting but necessary for deliciousness. By the way, there is a lot of blood in each and every cow!) But, now all these American douche bags think that that is how chefs are supposed to act (swear words and belittlement), not just how one dude acts, while in character. I can tell you, some chefs are amazing, what they can do with food, but it is no more a talent then putting tail lights on Pontiacs, it is practice, like anything else. Anyone can play a guitar like Jimmy Hendrix if they try hard enough. So, any frustration pent up and directed at a certain soul-food slinger named Dan is contrived and inappropriate!

I started working in 1995 at the Rita's Water Ice on Silverside Road. As printed in Urine Zine issue #3, the franchise owner/my boss was a lady who recently stopped menstruating and hated me for it, apparently. Rita's is a weird store. The ice is really good and they have countless flavors, but it couldn't be less authentic, five gallon drums shipped in from Rita's Central. Around here, we have real Water Ice stands. Fusco's Italian Ice on Union is as real-deal as it gets. They only serve lemon and they make it fresh everyday with lemons and ice and salt and sugar and this weird machine. (I got to use it!) And also on Union is Yatz's Polish Ice, who are just slightly less authentic, as they broaden out what flavors they make, but it is seriously the best water ice in Wilmington. The fresh strawberry and strawberry-lemonade flavors are the tops, and Yatz's is a full-service steak shop too. Across Pennsylvania Ave. is the dark horse, Rose's Italian Ice with lemon and cherry. That is where I got every water ice I ever had till Rita's came around. I was not suited for Rita's. It was extremely corporate and I swear they hated me from day one. I only worked there for like a month, everyday sick to my stomach that I had to do anything I didn't want to. My tenure there ended when I gave free ice to the kids from the Shoplifters and my bitch-ass boss saw me. New to me that this was frowned upon, as everybody constantly gave it out, but I wasn't allowed to, so out I went! I flipped that store the bird every damn time I drove by for the next five years.

Next I worked at the Melting Pot on Concord Pike in Independence Mall. If you don't know, the Pot is an extremely nice fondue restaurant, perfect for sexy dates and mother's day. Guests cook their own food in hot oil or bouillon at their table, so all three course, cheese course, entree, and chocolate dessert, are all prep and no cooking. I started in "the Pit" scrubbing stubborn cheese pans and dishes, and to this day I have never been stinkier than working in a fondue restaurant. Eventually I was identified as not a fuck up and got to design dessert plates and even invented a chocolate design they use to this day. The yin-tang, half white chocolate, half dark chocolate with circles of milk chocolate in the fat part. The best part was that we got out at like ten or eleven but I wouldn't go home until one or two, so the whole time I worked there I got about four hours of sleep a night, and would fall asleep driving alot.

I got sick of the hours though and soon moved to a Delaware institution, Capriotti's Subs! My time there makes me really proud, because you will not get a better sub in the whole world than at Cap's. Franchised all the way out to Las Vegas now, if you show your Delaware ID there you get a free small turkey! Pulled turkey, not that crummy deli stuff!! The best taste in the world is a fresh hunk of, slow-cook roast beef, hot from the oven over night and on white bread, dipped in the juice! You should break into any given Capriotti's during the night while they have their beefs and turkeys in the oven, and eat them.

Around now is when I realized there was something wrong with me. I had a great job with great hours that I could walk to, and all the pastrami I could eat, but I hated it. I hated the idea that I had to do anything I ever didn't feel like. At school, days that I worked were horrible, always hanging over my head with responsibility. Not big responsibility, just any responsibility was too much. A schedule existing with my name on it that dictated when I would be anywhere, anywhere at all, was no good. That's why I quit little league at Babe Ruth level. They all told me that everybody has to work. Why? To make money because that's how the world works, and the only way out is suicide. Even crime denotes a schedule, trust me, I tried. Shhh... I have never stopped resenting this apparent fact. They say you must work to make money to not starve. I say I could win the lottery. They say I have not done that (and in fact have never played the lottery), so it doesn't matter. I say it could happen so it does matter. I could literally find ten million dollars if I'm lucky enough, just like Willie Lohman never did. I could have a hit single or sell pictures of celebrity babies one time and never have to work again. I could write "Catcher in the Rye" or "The Bible" and sell copies for life without publishing again. The fact that these possibilities exist means that there is hope, and hope trumps despair. I have worked for thirteen some odd years with a total of the entire time, only about eight months unemployed. Those eight months were more productive than the rest combined. I do what I must in this reality, but I wholly reserve the right to think it is fucked up. I should be given a pass for being me, redeemable at the grocery store and 7-11 and the weed dude and local eateries and the comic book shop and Citizen's Bank Park and eBay. Oh, I also refuse to use a bank. It has cost me more money to keep my money in a bank than is conceivable. Anyway, the point is that working should be that which fulfils you, not that which obstructs your fulfillment, ideally. But it's not so I cook for bucks.

The closest thing I came to job fulfillment was working at the Comic Book Shop in North Wilmington. It was a dream come true really. All the free comics I could want and the store to run as I would. I stayed up on every new book and got all kinds of classics like "The Death of Gwen Stacy" and "Spiderman No More" and "Batman:Year One". I used to have girls over and lock up the shop and show them the back room, if you catch my drift, and smoke weed in the toy section after hours. Amazingly it wasn't this behaviour that got me canned. I spaced on opening on a new comic Wednesday and was rightfully given the boot! Losing this job is the only tangible regret I hold in my life.

After that I went to college in Newark and the Huffer got me a job washing dishes at Iron Hill. I was the great white hope, the only non-Hispanic dishwasher and I held very little respect for the rest of the Caucasian staff, but they loved me and soon I was on line making salads, appetizers and desserts while Huffer tossed pizza pies around the corner. It was here that I fully realized that people who work in restaurants are crazy and frequently substance abusers, much like hair stylists. This was the worst job I ever had, because we'd get off around one and get drunk ass wasted until early in the morning, sleep until five and go do it again. This schedule is not good for mental stability, and I made it out by the skin of my teeth.

I moved to Paper Mill Road and Billy Frolic hired me and Karl and Todd and Grant at Peace-A-Pizza, delivering pies around Newark. This was a real free-for-all and a true blast. We would keep kegs in the walk-in and the whole staff was tanked all the time! I loved driving around in the nice weather all toasted and seeing people's houses and dorm rooms and stuff. I was a bona-fide wild man at the time and the entire system lended itself well to innocent hedonism. Unfortunately, Billy received his first unfair firing, and me and half the staff walked out with him. Did I mention that it is horrible hippie-style pizza for trendy losers? Well it is!

In order to be around fellow degenerates, I took the job as a bus boy, or as they call it a server's assistant, at Iron Hill on the Riverfront. We had the all-time greatest bus crew of all time. Me, Karl, Grant, and Bobby Nowell were the Dream Team of servers assistants. This place was a real grab-bag of girls to date and get messed up with. It was like living in a vacuum were you can happily free-fall without fear of hitting the ground. We lost Bobby when the manager Gay Eric tried and make us bus boys carry trays at all times. It may sound small, but this could not fly and Bobby actually walked out when Eric tried to force it on him. I got a weak thrill out of carrying tens of pint glasses in front of everybody, but it wasn't enough. I was relieved of my duties as this one hostess's boy-toy, crashed my car a couple times, read some Green Lantern comics, and decided to resign and enter rehab and the loony bin at the Rockford Center.

After I got clean I took three months off before getting hired yet again by Billy Frolic at Dead Presidents Pub on Union Street. This would be my longest tenure at any job and the closest I came to being okay with working. That is, I worked (once again) with Todd and Karl and Billy and virtually no one was being a dick to me. I could know I had to work and not be deeply depressed about it. I was also on medication! At Dead Prez I made the only real friend I ever made at a job. Master Ray is actually the kindest person I know, a top-notch conversationalist and music fan. I love Ray! We all had alot of fun and did a great job at DP, taking ownership and making the restaurant a success. Unfortunately this was not enough for ownership. The Lucey Brothers are Salesianum grads (like us boys), but they are old school, molestin' style Catholics, all talk, no rock. It turns out they realized they could pay someone less than Billy to run the store, so they railroaded him, saying he was not committed enough and drank too much, both blatant lies to everyone who worked there. Todd and I used this as an opportunity to quit, and I called up them boys and told them all about themselves and what they could do with their jobs. Those pussies offered me more money (I was making jack shit!), and with Billy's approval, I stayed on the project I had started. It wasn't new managements fault, they put assistant GM Brownie in charge and bartender Nicole took up his position. They are both great people who want to succeed, but were payed less than Billy and ultimately less was expected of them. Brownie exceeded all expectations and made me kitchen manager, but neither of us, least of all me, needed any responsibility or people blaming me for orders arriving late, etc... so I asked them to hire a real manager. The dude the Lucy Bros. brought in was probably the creepiest douche bag I have ever had the displeasure of being around/working with, and both Brownie and I had had enough, resigning within a week of each other. Now the place is hangin' by the thread that is Raymond.

I used the following two months to weigh my options and shop around my talents. It was probably the most stressful vacation I ever took, having no money and begging, borrowing, and stealing my way through the summer, until Dead Prez's Nicole set me up with a new kitchen, 1717 on Delaware Ave. I took the job, being told it was five days a week, never working past eleven, and the kitchen would be mine to do with as I will. I was surprised to come in on my first day to find the new kitchen manager, my old buddy Toby from Iron Hill, we would be opening seven days a week, and on three of those days I'd have to stay until 1 am! We had fun for a month, but it was clear not only that I am burnt out on cooking for a living and that I can not be around people I don't know who drink or use non-marijuana drugs excessively, so I set out on a new path.

My best friend Todd works for Action Supplies Unlimited in New Castle, and as of now, so do I! I am their newest sales representative and I can not wait. We sell chemicals, paper, plastics, cleaning supplies, any and all supplies you need for your place of business, I will sell to you and offer Hank Hill-esque service to go along with it. It is a local company that is focused on environmentally friendly alternatives to harsh cleaning chemicals. One of the many things that attracted my to the job (along with working with Todd, the enlightening characters from which I can learn, my love of that which is clean and multicolored chemicals, etc...) is how old-school it is. Save for the chemical make-up of the product, the job is the same as it would have been in the 1950's. I'm reading all the literature on my product to know how best to explain and sell it, as well as Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" which I feel will give me the insights I need for greatness.

They say "do what you love and the money will follow." In my experience I have not found that to be true. I mean, if you love playing video games, you can get a job designing video games, not playing video games. What's more, what if all I love is playing R.B.I. Baseball 3? It would be extremely far-fetched to think you could find a job playing R.B.I. Baseball One, let alone Three! If you love playing punk rock in your basement and don't even want anybody to see what you do (that DOES NOT describe me, by the way), you might be able to get paid playing some version of your music, if you concede to play it outside your basement. If you only love playing basketball but are five foot two, you might be able to get a job coaching, maybe. The point is if you get paid for doing what you love exactly it is a rare and fortunate accident. For the most part doing what you love must occur in spite of the need to make money or starve. To those who have it both ways, you are a blessed person. So for now, I retire from the food-service industry, until my dad opens a restaurant, at which time I'll be ready to do it all!


Brendan Charles Huffman said...

sounds like a good change. Nuts to the restaurant biz (for now).

I'll be sure to call you up when I open up my next business. I'm thinking maybe some sort of AC Repair shop.

Jamesage said...

Dude, Loverboy hit the nail on the fuckin' head.

bd said...

dear ownership,

you are douches, and i am am not going to work for you anymore. You have three weeks to replace me. Unbeknownst to all of us, I will slip and fall in the kitchen tomorrow, need chin-stitches, and not return.
Good luck with your mediocre pizza.


it went something like that.