Monday, June 27, 2005

Great Day

Great day. One for the books.

Started out with a much-needed haircut at Chelsea Barbers. When I walk in early this morning, I see my favorite barber on the planet, who has not worked there for a few months. I’m floored.
“Where have you been?”
“Hip-replacement surgery.”
And then I hugged him. Reminds me of my paternal grandfather. Something about his posture. Anyway, he gave me the best haircut I’ve gotten in the last few months. It’s nice not having to explain what you want to someone. It’s like jazz musicians--it's about feeling.

I accepted the part-time management job at my favorite restaurant. We’ll bang out the details this week, but I should start on 06 July. The only bad thing is that I’ll most likely not be able to go to Jill’s wedding now. This is a short-term situation and I can’t give up an entire weekend for it. Sad but true.

Then I ran home, showered and headed back into the city for coffee with Kerry at Joe. Kerry is interviewing for a job in the same company I just agreed to join, so we’re going over possible interview questions. She’s extremely nervous. I try to keep things light by every once in a while bringing up her ever burgeoning crush on Chris Monaco. Thursday is the big day for her and I’m sure she’ll do well.

Next up was lunch with Molly at Momofuku. She’s late and looks awful. She goes on to tell me about her weekend filled with tears over her current relationship with Mr. Ponytail. It’s good to see her, even in this state. We haven’t talked in so long. We needed to catch up.

After that came time to pick up my final paycheck at my now former restaurant. A bunch of us gathered in the bar area and ate leftover cheese all the while amusing ourselves. It was a cathartic experience...I got choked up a couple of times.

I walked to the subway in the torrential rain and after making it home, I hear my phone ring. (What follows is how I remember it, as best as I can recall.)
“Hello?”
“Bernard?”
“Yes.”
“It’s Emmy from Joe.”
“Emmy you don’t have to say ‘from Joe’. I only have one Emmy in my life. Of course, now you’re going to tell me that you have five Bernards in your life.”
“I only need one.”
“That’s kind of you to say.”
“So I wanted to tell you I got your message on Saturday and I’m sorry that I haven’t returned your call until now.”
“Oh that’s okay.”
“It was very sweet…what you said in the message.”
“I meant every word of it.”
“Well I have an idea for a thank you gift.”
“Oh yeah?”
“I was thinking since you’re a filmmaker and I think it’s important to see things that inspire us, I’d like to take you to a film sometime…something you wouldn’t normally go to.”
“Wow. Yes I would love that. Oh but I leave for Cleveland tomorrow for a week.”
“Oh.”
“But I’ll be back on the 5th. Can we go out that night?”
“I’m closing Joe that night. We could catch a 9 o’clock film.”
“I’d really like that.”

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Easygoing

I called Emmy yesterday. Didn’t speak to her but left a rather warm and charming voicemail. Hopefully she’ll call today.

Brunch was at August today. The place was fairly empty because the Gay Pride Parade was happening and no one wanted to wade through all of the people. Which is fine by me; I for one like having a restaurant to myself. I was with Jackie, Cindy and Cindy’s dude Jared. Good time was had by all, and everyone agreed that my roesti potatoes with smoked salmon was the best thing on the table.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

One Door Closes, Another Opens

At the beginning of service, I got a phone call from my favorite restaurant. The AC/DC fan asked me to call him back. It’s been a week since I last saw him and that was to pull my name from consideration for the Wine Director position. I call him back immediately.
“Hello Bernard.”
“Hello.”
“So there’s something I’m going to propose to you. We have a woman we’re going to bring on as a manager, but she can’t start until September. We’d like you to come on as a part-time manager for three nights a week, and maybe have a fourth night where you’d be a captain. And then in September, we’d hopefully bring you on as a server full-time.”
I’m stunned.
“There’s no reason to answer me now, but I need to know if you’re interested.”
“Yes. I’m very interested. Can I call you tomorrow?”
“Of course.”

In other news, it was my restaurant’s last night. It was a tough service. Lots of VIPs that received extra courses, but we got through it. I wanted this to be my last job in the industry, but it turns out not to be the case. I love this restaurant. It’s a bittersweet day for me.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Emmy

As I walk into my preferred coffeehouse, I see my favorite barista. I have had mild crushes on almost all the women that work at this establishment, but this one is different. And here’s why: she makes me laugh. I rarely if ever find women funny. My humor is a delicate blend of awkwardness, self-deprecation and a healthy sense of the absurd. Not many women can appreciate this, which I've accepted. But I’ve joked a few times with this woman and she’s been able to keep up with me. Top that off with having a fantastic smile, short hair and glasses...she’s absolutely the kind of girl I would be too shy to say hello to even though I have no reason to be. Earlier in the week, we had a conversation that went something like this:
“You should come in to my restaurant this week. We’re closing.”
“Yeah?”
“I’ll totally hook you up. Being Wine Director comes with perks.”
“I’m sure. Where is it?”
I tell her.
And that was it. Didn’t think much about it...that is until today when I saw her. It was the first time since that small exchange. But this time she initiated.
“I’ve been calling everyone and no one wants to come with me to your restaurant.” I get the impression that her friends, like herself, don’t possess a whole lot of money (neither do I), which always is a good reason to say no to extravagant nights out at posh two-star restaurants. Or maybe she’s just saying this to appease me so I won’t ask her about it.
“You should just come in by yourself then.”
“Yeah?”
“Yeah.”
“I think I might do that.”
And that’s how we left it. No commitment to seeing each other. But I was hopeful that I’d see her later that night.
And guess what? She did come.
She brought a friend, Jeff, who thank God was gay and not some guy she’s seeing. I seat them at one of the best tables. I ask them a bunch of questions.
“Are you allergic to anything?”
They shake their heads.
“Is there anything you won’t eat?”
No again.
“How about drink?”
She perks up. “Tequila is not good.” Jeff laughs.
“Okay, but wine is good.”
They nod big time.
And now we’re off to the races. The one thing I’m great at is just taking over a situation in regards to food. So I decide to make a tasting menu out of a ton of appetizers and pair each course with wine. It was one of my greatest moments as a server. They loved everything. I wanted to blow them away and I think I did that. So if there’s ever a shot at getting a date with this girl I think I’ve put myself in the best position to do so. End of the meal comes and I write a note in the check presenter: “There is no check. Please don’t make big deal out of this. It’s been my pleasure. Call me. (my phone number).” And there it was. I pick up the check after they figure out what to tip (which turned out to be rather generous) and I find a note inside. I don’t read it right away, because they’re still at the restaurant. On their way out, she kisses me on the cheek. I couldn’t have been happier. That is until I read the note, which read, “Bernard – if that is your real name…you are PHENOMENAL. We love you. Emmy and Jeff (both of their phone numbers).”

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Game 7

Spurs won the NBA Championship. Just like I predicted.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

She's Rad

My day off. Adrianna and I had a long talk last night. The kind where you know it has to end, but only because time slipped away. I got up late because of this and couldn’t drop off my resume at a restaurant I have very little enthusiasm about working at.
But I decided to treat myself to a film--Me and You and Everyone We Know. Jackie (who has become a chum, now that we don’t work together) and I go to the new IFC Center. The film is wonderful, although it defies description. It’s full of humor and awkwardness. Films like this are not made often and should be relished. If nothing else, you should know that the lead, Miranda July, is also the writer/director. How she was able to juggle all three of those jobs is nothing short of miraculous. And dare I say, she has the sexiest neck I have ever seen.
Afterwards, Jacks and I went to Honmura An, a soba noodle shop in SoHo. Shortly after being seated, Cindy arrived and we ordered food like it was going out of style. And all the food was fantastic. And if you don’t believe me, you should ask Yoko Ono because she walked into the restaurant in the middle of our dinner.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Sleeping With The Enemy

Adrianna wakes me up Monday morning by jumping on the couch where I lay and kissing me. It was not erotic by any stretch of the imagination, but instead more of genuine affection. A sheepdog comes to mind.
In other sleeping news, I was in bed with someone a couple days back and she kept creeping into my space. I was less awake, so I could feel her big toenail stabbing my food or her body outstretched encroaching on my sleeping territory. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well that night.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Waldorf-Astoria

Let me paint you a picture: J and I in plush white bathrobes drinking sparkling dessert wine in a Waldorf-Astoria room. J is in town on work-related matters and the client she is working for put her up for the night. So she calls me up and after work I go over. The hotel room is ridiculous. There are separate rooms--living room, bedroom, dressing room and bathroom. Absurd. To rent this room costs in one day $400 more than what I pay for my apartment for a month’s rent.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Romancing the Stone

Adrianna called me yesterday to tell me that she’s coming into town. For those of you who don’t know, Adrianna is my oldest friend. (Oldest in that she’s been my friend for a long time, not that she’s an old woman.) Our friendship extends beyond space and distance; it’s timeless. But she’s bringing a friend--Stone. And Stone is a woman. From what I gather they’re now a couple, so the stakes have been raised for this visit.
As I wait in at the bus stop for them and as soon as they get off the bus, Adrianna and I full body hug. It’s been too long. Stone is everything her name implies--cold, steely and humorless. And right from the get go, we’re not clicking. I’m a little worried. I take them to the one vegan restaurant I know and they eat like kings. The whole time Adrianna and I talk, while Stone sits and listens. But she does so in that sort of judgmental way that makes me think that what we’re talking about is insignificant. But I don’t care. I haven’t seen Adrianna in so long and I’m going to take advantage.
We eventually get back to my apartment and Adrianna and I pop open a bottle of wine. (Stone doesn’t drink.) We laugh and share all of which Stone is a passive observer. What does Adrianna see in her? I don’t get it.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Turning It Down

I officially turned down the Wine Director position at my favorite restaurant today. I was terribly nervous. It’s never easy to tell anyone no, or maybe it is, but I’m not good at it. But the AC/DC fan took it well and the woman I would have been replacing took it extremely well. Guilt kills and I’m the number one at letting guilt get to me. But I’ll get over it. Hopefully.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Hanging With Mr. Monaco

Last night, I got out of work and hung out with Chris Monaco. He needs a distraction…his girlfriend and him broke up this past Sunday. We make a night of it: dinner and a movie. Dinner was at Casa Mono, a Spanish tapas joint. We had wine and talked. It’s wonderful being around Chris. He’s like a kid in a candy store talking about food. It’s truly what he wants to do with the rest of his life. It’s refreshing to be around such unbridled enthusiasm.
Afterwards, we go to Batman Begins. But our bottle of wine put us behind the eight ball on time and we end up getting second row seats, which means we have to strain our necks the whole time we’re watching the film. Everyone’s chin looked fucking huge. But once I adjusted, I recognized that this is by far my favorite Batman film. Some people are claiming this is a prequel to the already made Batman films, but I think we should think of them as separate series. Christian Bale is a wonderful Batman and Christopher Nolan made some sharp and distinct choices with a smart script. More movies of this caliber should be so lucky.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Welcome to Oz

I walk up to the door of my favorite coffeehouse and the door opens. I see a young woman, no older than three, on the other side of it.
“Thank you,” I say.
She nods. This is a beautiful young girl with curly brown hair and sun dress. My father would have been fawning.
After putting in my order, I turn and see the girl from a better vantage point. As I look at her I simultaneously realize two things: 1. I know who this girl is (because I know who her parents are) and 2. she’s wearing a costume. She is the daughter of J. Smith Cameron and Kenneth Lonergan. And she’s dressed as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, ruby slippers and all. Charming.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Oh my God, it even has a watermark...

I went to my local bookstore to get a book--Walden by Henry David Thoreau. A pleasure read and one that was required for most high school students but not me. Recently, the book popped up in conversations I’ve had and witnessed and I decided now would be as good a time as any to give it a go. I finally find the book in the section titled Essays and find five different copies of the book. I was stumped. So I picked up all of the versions and glanced through each of them. I quickly found the one I wanted because it was by far the most beautiful book I’d seen in recent memory--uncut pages, fully annotated, hardback. It was stunning.
Does anyone remember the scene from AMERICAN PSYCHO when Patrick Bateman saw Paul Owen's business card? It was kinda like that for me. Of course the irony of me bringing up that scene is that the book I was ogling is a meditation on simplicity and letting go of things that don’t matter.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Kerry

I’m allowed one guest to my free dinner in Upstate New York so I call Chris Monaco. He’s my first choice because he has a car. It was the deciding factor. I figured we’d go up, take our nice sweet time and make a day of it. But alas, turns out he’s working. He suggests my second choice, Kerry. She would have been my first choice but then the whole car thing got in my head. I figure we'd take a train up and non-sexually canoodle on the way back. It's a win-win. In any case, we talk today after a personally disastrous shift at her restaurant. Kerry has always wanted to be in the restaurant business since she was in junior high. She has an Ivy League degree to prove it. She’s dedicated to the business in a way that I could never be. It’s what consumes her and that’s how she likes it. And I’m not that way. She could never fully grasp how much I admire her. But she’s a back server right now and while her love for the industry is still alive and well, her patience for her current restaurant is not. She should have a management job. And as I hear her retell me her issues with tonight’s service, two things hit me. One, that I don’t want the job at my dream restaurant because it would mean giving up my true passion (filmmaking) and two, I know who should have the job I’ll be turning down.
“I hope you get this job, Bernard.”
“Actually you should have it.”
“They want you.”
“Right now they want me because they haven’t met you.”
“You’re kidding me right?”
“No, I’m not. I want your resume. I’m giving it to Pam (the current Wine Director).”
“I won’t even interview until you turn it down.”
“As of this moment I’ve pulled my name from consideration.”
And that’s it. It took an incredible moment of clarity, when all of it came together for me. She’s the one. I could have let the situation get messy, but now the world has let me have an out. I plan on sleeping really well tonight.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Interview #2

Day of the big second interview. Very nervous. It was with one of my idols. I think this chef/owner is as good as they come in our business. And to interview with him was a milestone in my short career. I sat with the General Manager (to my loyal readers they’ll remember him as the AC/DC fan) as we waited for the chef. I’m wearing the same suit and tie from the first interview, although I changed the shirt. I’m sweating. The chef bursts into the room with a ton of energy and urgency. He looks like a grad student on the verge of becoming a professor, with his preppy glasses and disheveled look. The interview covers all the bases: why I want this position, where I previously worked, what I’ve learned. The chef talked in that distracted way that geniuses talk with the rare eye contact and fidgety mannerisms.
“You’re green.”
I nod. It’s true. I am.
“You’re wholly under qualified for this position.”
Again I nod. I could have contested this with witty banter, but I think it’s absurd to not concede your weakness. And then it happened.
“But…I like you. And what you lack in experience doesn’t matter to me because I sense you’re hungry.”
I’m bowled over. Stunned.
“Can you make it upstate to [our sister restaurant] for dinner on Sunday?”
“Yes.”
“Dinner of course would be on us. Bring someone along with you if you'd feel more comfortable.”
And that’s how we left it. On my way out I talked to the current Wine Director, who I’ve become friendly with. She told me about the work environment and about the job more in detail. Then she told me the total hours: 70-80. Whoa.
I go back to work and set up. It’s not a busy night so I get cut off the floor and decide to have dinner at the restaurant I interviewed at. I had a good meal and service exceeded my expectations; all of which brightened when I consider that I didn’t have to pay for the meal (just tip)--the Wine Director comped the entire thing.
Part of me was hoping that the interview wouldn’t go very well and they wouldn’t offer me the job. (They haven’t, just for clarification.) But I can tell that we’re on the road to that happening. Damn my boyish good looks and charming demeanor!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Ashley

On Friday, at my restaurant, a young pretty woman walks into the first door and stands awkwardly in front of the second one. It’s glass enclosed and she’s just standing there. We look at each other. I go up to the door and push it towards her.
“I’m sorry, but I was wondering if you were hiring?”
“No. We’re actually closing in a couple of weeks.”
“Oh I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Me too. Where else have you worked in the city?”
“Actually I just moved to the city. I’m from Ohio.”
“I’m from Ohio!”
“I went to Ohio State.”
“I went to Ohio State!”
“My name is Ashley.”
“My name is Ashley!”
She laughs.
“I’m from Painesville.”
“I...am...not from Painesville. Look what you did. We had such a good thing going and then you went and ruined it.”
She laughs harder.
“Let’s go outside and talk.”
And we do. About Ohio, restaurants in the area, what we studied at college. You know, normal chit chat. We spoke a little closer than most people who barely know each other speak. And then I gave her my number. She put it in her phone and I told her that I’d look into some restaurants on her behalf and she could call me in a couple days.
And lo and behold, she called me tonight. How cool is that? She got a job at a place I told her was most likely hiring and she left her number to call her back. I think I’m going to ask her out to brunch sometime.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

I'll Never Be Able To Read Everything

I’m going to spend all Sunday cramming for this interview on Monday.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Interview #1

Without sounding full of myself, I interview well. I don’t do a lot of things well, but I can interview. It’s a small skill that has gotten me jobs that I have no right to have. Some people have a knack for it, some don’t. I do. It’s a gift.

Today I had the most important interview of my life. I was not as nervous as I was for Per Se, but this was more pressure because I was being interviewed for a specific job. They are looking for something specific and I hope to have what they want.

I wore my blue suit. It’s hot to wear a suit on a day like today, but I had to look professional. Funny thing. Guy I interviewed with wore an AC/DC t-shirt and jeans. So I’m sitting there across from this man giving a fairly competent interview. I hit all of the notes that I wanted to hit…phrases that have played well for me in these types of situations.

A couple hours later, my phone rings. It's the AC/DC fan. “Can you interview with [the world renowned chef/owner] on Monday at 3?” I’m fucking stunned. You could have tipped me over with a feather. “I’ll be there.”

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Call

I got a call today from an industry friend. We’ve met twice and I’ve talked to her on the phone a handful of times. I had called her when I heard the news of our closure. I love where she works and I had hoped that she would give me a job at her restaurant--my favorite in the city. I was willing to take a step backward to a runner or back server just to work there. But she tells me that she’s stepping down from as Wine Director to become a server there (she recently had a child) and if I’d like to throw my name into the mix. My knee jerk reaction was to say yes. So she set up an interview for me for tomorrow. I have reservations about the job, mainly that I’m terribly under qualified for the position, but I’ll deal with the thing tomorrow. I’m just psyched to be nominated.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Melting

It’s too hot to sleep. I need a fucking air conditioner. This is absurd. I can’t breathe. The air is violent around me. And the sun isn’t even up. I hate this time of year.

This whole impending unemployment thing is freaking me out. How am I supposed to pay bills next month? I’m exhausted and am due a true vacation but I’m not entirely sold on the idea that I can afford one. I’ll be collecting unemployment but I hear that’s only in the $300-$400 range. Ideally, I’d get a job that would let me be paid under the table and I could double dip for six months. But who knows if any potential employer would let me do that? Maybe I should consider picking up that mannying job I wanted to a while back.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Big Day

Big day. Too much information to relay in one sitting so I’ll do so in bullet points.
-went up to Rebecca Miller and talked about filmmaking for ten minutes
-found out my restaurant is closing in a couple weeks, so I’ll be on unemployment soon
-Roger text-messaged me that Anne Bancroft died
-after work, went to THE SPOTTED PIG (for a beer) and then CORNER BISTRO (for burgers and cheap/watered down beer) where I met Josh Charles and talked for a couple minutes about his career
-talked to J about her love life

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Food Stories

In the subway station, waiting for the D train, a woman sits next to me eating a quiche out of a to-go box. She’s using a plastic fork. The flaps to the box are sticking up in the air. Every once in a while she stops eating to grab an iced coffee drink next to her and take a large swig. This struck me as odd but I did not say anything.

After brunch, Eric, J and I went to Magnolia Bakery and got four cupcakes. As we walked to Washington Square Park, we passed a young woman on her cell phone visibly upset. J and I just look at each other and get the same look on our face.
“Let’s give her the fourth cupcake.”
“Yes.”
“Okay you go.”
“No. You should go.”
“Go with me.”
“Yeah that’s not gonna creep her out.”
While this cupcake debate over random kindness raged on, Eric was weighing the options.
“I don’t get a good feeling. I mean what if she’s on the phone talking about pulling her father’s life support.”
“You think that is what’s upsetting her?”
“Well I'm just saying that’s the worst case scenario. The other end of the spectrum is that she tells the story later like this, ‘…And then he came out of nowhere with a cupcake. That’s how we met.’”
We all stand there for a minute. We decide as a group that she was not cupcake worthy after all and moved on.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Easy/Hard

A friend of mine has fallen in love. This news has not caused a rush of excitement among her closest friends. You see, she falls in love easily. She’s an emotional conduit, if you will. At any given moment sadness will overwhelm her, pressures create tears or happiness spur spontaneous singing. She’s a feeler. The world is cruel to people like her; people who take others their word and genuinely care about other people’s emotions. They endure more pain than the rest of us. It’s with this knowledge that all of her inner circle approach the subject of her new love with a grain of salt. Except me. So why do I believe her? Because love is like gravitas. You know it when you see it. And you can see it on her face and in the timbre of her voice when his name comes up. She’s sunk. And I’m happy for her. And you should be too.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Quitting

I’m off tonight. I considered going to see a movie, but instead decided to go home and drink. I am finishing off the bottle of Hewitson Mourvedre I got as a sample from one of my many wine reps. I love this wine. Mourvedre is my new favorite grape. It used to be pinot noir, but it’s all too hot right now with the emergence of SIDEWAYS on the cultural landscape. That and I think pinot is too staid. You know what you get when you drink pinot. Mourvedre is different. You never know what to expect with it. It’s a challenging grape and I love all of its incarnations.

Before I leave work tonight, my good friend Michael pulls me aside and tells me that he’s putting his two weeks in. And the hits just keep on coming. Last night Maggie the Manager tells me that my wine buying is put on hold because business is slow. The only reason that I accepted the Wine Director position was to learn more about wine and have total control over the wine list. And I’ve gotten to the place where I don’t really mind not getting paid for the hassle. But it’s only fun for me when I get to do my thing. Things have changed. Add to that the summer slow down of business and I think it’s time to leave. I spent my first ten months of my New York existence looking for a job that I loved. I found it. And I was content on staying there indefinitely, but add up all these things and I can’t do it anymore.