Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Criteria

Today a restaurant made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I accepted the job on the spot and immediately called up the chef/owner of the yet-to-open place I had promised to work and told them that I had to take this new position.
Many people have asked me how I chose this restaurant. The criteria I used was simple. I created a wish list of dream elements. I know that no job has everything you are looking for, but it’s nice to look at what factors into your decision. So here they are in no particular order.
1. No lunches or brunches--less money, early wake up time and dealing with diners who are rushing you at your job so that they can get back to theirs
2. Full-time--at least four shifts
3. Exceptional food--food that I would love to eat myself
4. Already open--a steady and growing client base
5. Great atmosphere--what’s the room and what are the co-workers like?
6. Non-corporate--support the little guy
7. Located in Manhattan--close to home would be cool
8. Server position--management doesn’t pay
9. Small--quality of service and food easier to control in this environment
10. Good reputation--a Michelin Star would be nice
You’ll notice money is not on the list. That’s because I’m just looking for a steady gig that lets me pay the bills. All the restaurants I had sent resumes out to would have done that. Also, I hate letting that be a consideration. I just want to be happy going to work. It should be a place I look forward to going, not dreading. I think I found it. And it fits all but one of the criteria (it’s in Brooklyn).

Monday, November 28, 2005

live in Manhattan, work in Brooklyn?

I'd like a show of hands. Who thinks it's weird for me to live in Manhattan and work in Brooklyn? There's a late offer that might be coming forthwith which would make that a reality. But for some reason that's playing with my sense of the universe.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

I'll do anything for a smile

J and I watch a lot of Food Network. J’s new favorite person to watch is Giada DeLaurentiis, who hosts Behind the Bash and Everyday Italian. I think she has a weird smile. Charismatic and effervescent, she’s an amazing food host, but I just don’t think she’s as beautiful as J thinks she is.
Which brings me to my point: beauty, at least for me, begins with one's smile. The reason I am supremely attracted to Em is that hers is so genuine. The first time I made her laugh and I saw her smile, my heart skipped a beat. That’s how she got me. (If you want to know how I got her, you’ll have to back track through this blog on your own time. Let me just say this: not easy. (But well worth it.))
Today at the coffeehouse, as Em worked and I wrote, I’d occasionally take a break and do something mildly entertaining (lip synching into my coffee cup, for example, which unbeknownst to me, other people noticed)—simply to see that smile.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

I'm the one who's lucky...

I just want to revel in something for a moment. A week ago, frustrated with my job, I ran downstairs to use the restroom and afterwards I quickly sent a text message to Em.
“I’m 99.9% sure I’m quitting tonight.”
And that’s it. Nothing else. No explanation or set up.
All night, my co-workers begged me to think about what I was doing, to reconsider. And they calmed me down from my furious state. But then my phone vibrates. It's Em's response.
“Do it. Don’t look back.”
I took a deep breath. I hated my job and she knew I was miserable. Em was confident that I’d be able to find a new job in a second. (Which I did.) That message was telling me that it was okay to be brave. And for that, I have to just pause and think about how fucking lucky I am to be with such a person. It may not seem like that big a deal, but logic tells me that I made the bad play in that moment--quitting without a fallback plan. It takes a person who cares about you deeply to give you license not to adhere to logic.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Avoiding Writing

The holiday season has begun and I’m celebrating by going to work later. For now, I’m enjoying a small double mocha (I’ve had to stop ordering Red Eyes…I had an adverse reaction to the extreme amount of caffeine) and attempting to write. I’ve been avoiding writing this particular scene for the script I’m writing with Nick (and now that NjP is a reader of this blog, I’m sure he’ll be happy to hear that I have yet to begin). It’s a complicated scene with lots of intricate shit going on. I’m a little terrified to write it. The white piece of paper, as Aaron Sorkin tells us, openly mocks the writer. Every writer has this insecurity: that what you’re about to write will reveal your true lack of talent. But here I am sitting in front of my computer, like I do every day, because I have to. I don’t have a choice. I’m a writer at heart.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

An oldie but a goodie...

Last year's Thanksgiving was much more eventful than this year (went to Rebekah's and had dinner).

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Stuffing

Last night I made sausage stuffing. It wasn’t good. Objectively speaking, I’ve had significantly better stuffing. But that’s not what was really sad. I was trying to make my mother’s stuffing. It’s my favorite thing to eat at Thanksgiving and I haven’t had it for three years. Not the way she makes it anyway. So I was attempting to re-create it from memory. And I fucked up. It was awful. I know I did something wrong and I can’t for the life of me understand what precisely it was. But J had a few bites and made some disparaging remarks about my concoction. (“So what are we going to do with it? (implying that we should probably just throw it out)” and “You aren’t still planning on going to culinary school are you?”) I didn’t want to hear any “helpful hints” from her. Could she improve it? Sure. But it was about me trying to find something I’m craving. I haven’t had Thanksgiving dinner with my family since I moved to New York and this is the first year I’m pretty upset about it. My dad will overcook the turkey, nothing is made from scratch and dinner conversation is forced and awkward. But I’ll be missing it. And given my new job (oh yeah I got a new job opening a restaurant in a couple of weeks...very swanky) I’m 99.9% sure I’m going to have to cancel my trip home for Christmas and New Year’s. So I’m not sure when I’m going to see my family again. And it sucks.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Honeymoon

Beginnings of relationships are the most fun aren’t they? You sit across from each other at various eateries, picking at each other’s food, occasionally kissing and telling each other the stories that make up your lives. You’re both immensely interesting to the each other. And you find even the littlest things in common worth celebrating.
“Wait you convert oxygen into carbon dioxide? So do I!” (Kiss.)
There’s no pressure there. It’s before you have the first knockdown-drag out but not before the first time you do the deed. The Honeymoon Phase some people call it. People look at you and see the glee on your face and wonder, “What the hell is he so fucking happy about?” And then she comes back from the restroom and they knowingly nod. “Ah. She’s the reason for that goofy grin.”

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Drunk now, write more later

All is right in the world. Ohio State beat Michigan, my seven and eight year olds won their game 24-0 and I quit my job tonight. (And by quit, I mean put my two weeks notice.)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Lunch with the Lady

Yesterday Em and I went to a little Italian place called Giorgione for lunch. It’s in TriBeCa and out of the way for us to get to. I had read some wonderful things and it did not disappoint. Food was above expectations, service warm and the wine list heavily weighted to Italy (and in wide-ranging prices). It was after her work and before mine, so we got a bottle of wine. I must take a moment to explain that I do not advocate drinking before work. But as my previous blog post may have indicated, I simply do not care about my job enough to worry about being fired or at the very least reprimanded for drinking before a shift. (To be quite honest, my fellow bored server Demian and I have even started drinking during the shift. This sort of reckless behavior wouldn’t be acceptable at any other restaurant, but the inmates are running the asylum, get it?)
In any case, if you haven’t had the experience of drinking on a Friday afternoon surrounded by people in suits doing business, then you are denying yourself one of the greatest joys imaginable to mankind.

Friday, November 18, 2005

It's a job

On several occasions, Em has asked me to explain why I hate my job. She recently ate there and, to her, it seemed to be a nice place to work. So now I will enumerate my problems with my current job.
1. For the most part, I work with people who are not very good at their jobs, and exhibit no desire to be better at them.
2. These same people are obsessed with how much money they are making.
3. None of them care about food.
4. None of them care about service.
5. I am forced to wear a t-shirt.
6. There’s no one enforcing a standard.
7. We are constantly running out of things we shouldn’t be running out of.
8. Our wine list, which I used to be proud of, is abysmal.
9. I’ve worked at great restaurants and this one is clearly not one of them. I won’t be putting this one on my otherwise impressive resume.
10. I’m bored whenever I’m there. Worse, I’m embarrassed to even be there.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

It isn't just a shitty Rachel McAdams movie

The best thing about dating a barista also happens to be the worst thing about dating a barista: free coffee. I’ve recently been introduced to a thing called a Red Eye (coffee with a shot of espresso). For a while now, I’ve tended to drink a small double mocha, but this is a completely different creature. I’ve graduated (or maybe it’s my palate that has). It’s what a true coffee drinker has. No frills. Just hook up the caffeine I.V. and leave me alone. You know the bitterness you sometimes associate with coffee? It’s over-extracted and/or burnt. I can correctly identify that now. I’m learning.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Tintinnabulation

Em and I are reading a book simultaneously. I’ve always wanted to do this with someone I’m seeing. I tried once with the professor I dated, but our relationship ended before we could finish. Hopefully this will not be a trend in my love life.
The book we’ve chosen is Independence Day by Richard Ford. So far we’ve only read the first chapter. But already I found a word I was unfamiliar with: tintinnabulation. After I look it up, I find that it means a ringing or tinkling sound. Ford uses it though as an accent: “And perhaps I’m simply a poor bet for her or anybody, since I so like the tintinnabulation of early romance yet lack the urge to do more than ignore it when that sweet sonority threatens to develop into something else.”
I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Ford’s protagonist Frank Bascombe.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Rooftop Access

I’m standing on top of the rooftop of my building with Rebekah, Colby (her boyfriend), a couple of their friends and Toby (my co-worker) drinking wine. It’s cold and I’m happy. Earlier, I served the gang. (Random ramble: I’m bored at work. I’m slumming it. It’s a place that I hate to be, for many reasons, one of which is that I’m bored all the time. It’s mentally unchallenging. No one cares and it shows. All of my co-workers exhibit no desire to be better at their jobs and that is unusual for me. I’m surrounded by accepted mediocrity. How did I get here? I feel like that Simple Minds song.) But now we’re all drinking a couple bottles of wine. Toby and one of Colby’s friends, Jessie, are on a one way ticket to each other’s pants.
“Yeah they are.”
“Rebekah what are you doing talking on my blog?”
“I’m just…you know…telling your readers that you are so right about Jessie and Toby. Hey readers, I was the one who knew they’d get along.”
“Yes yes. Rebekah is the one who predicted that they’d be into each other. But lady, are you going to let me tell the story or are you going to interrupt me? Because I’ll end this blog post right here missy.”
“Alright alright. I’m sorry.”
Anyway, it’s cold and now the wine is finished. We venture down to the apartment. It’s warm in there. Toasty.
Eventually, Toby and I hatch a scheme to go to Corner Bistro for watered down beer and quality burgers. Everyone reluctantly joins us. Toby and Jessie kiss on the way. (Random rant: Jessie and I, all night, are hitting each other. She started it by touching me while I was serving the table, which escalated to her punching me by the time we got to my apartment. She continued this throughout the rest of the night. I, as a gentleman, only retaliated after I consumed some wine. That’s when I slapped her. A couple times. It was weird. But she started it.) Rebekah and troupe leave about ten minutes after we get there. So now I’ve got a couple beers to finish and a burger. I eat and drink quickly and then book it outta there. Toby and Jessie are going home for some hardcore banging and I really feel awkward about being there. Wouldn’t you?
--
I slept on the floor of my living room. Woke up at 7. Four hours. Fuck. Dead tired. I’m up. Going back to sleep isn’t an option. I pack my computer and go to the coffeehouse. I stake out some prime real estate and start writing. The morning is intense here. A couple times there’s a line that’s out the door.
I’m surrounded by people with their routine. A couple sits down next to me. Two toasted bagels with coffees. They don’t talk for the first 15 minutes that they’re here. They just stare at each other. And they brought separate reading materials. So she’s got her New Yorker and he a free publication I fail to identify. I glance over and see she’s reading an article titled “Best Year Of My Life”. Great title.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

almost had to call in the Mystery Machine

It’s 7:00 in the morning when my phone rings. Who the hell is calling me at this hour?! I open up my phone. It’s Chris Monaco. I pick up.
“Chris?”
“Bernard.”
Chris and I talk pretty much every day. It’s unusual when he and I don’t at least touch base through voicemail. But he dropped off the face of the earth over a week ago and we haven’t talked since. Was he mad at me? If so, what for? Is he alright? My concern is growing. He’s a level-headed guy and extremely dependable. Him not calling is rather odd. So he finally calls...at 7:00 in the morning. I have to pick this call up even though I’m dead tired.
“Are you alright?”
“I’m great. You?”
He goes on to explain that he left his phone in a NYC cab and he hasn’t called me back because he hasn’t had a phone. Mystery solved. We chit chat about the Michelin Guide of New York City, his work, my work, the women of our lives. Now we’re at around the 25 minute mark when he asks the oddest thing.
“What are you doing up at 7:00 in the morning?”
I’m up because you called me you jackass. Who calls someone at that time? I mean seriously.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Hilarious



Em sent me this picture this evening.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Truth Over Brunch

It’s 2:00. I’m laying in bed. Fuck you I’ve got nothing to do today. I got up earlier to watch some TV okay? So I haven’t been in bed all day. Just most of the day. My phone rings. It's Em.
“Hello?”
“Hello. Did I wake you up?”
“No.”
“Are you sure? Not even a little bit?”
“I’m up.”
“What are you doing?”
“What are we doing?”
“Brunch?”
“Meet me in ten minutes in front of my building.”
“Okay.”
I hop in the shower, change and run downstairs. We eat brunch at August. She has the Eggs Florentine, I the burger. Before the food comes, she tells me something.
“So you know when I called on Tuesday?”
“When you didn’t leave a message?”
“You were coaching.”
“Uh huh.”
“Well I was calling because I wanted to tell you your efforts haven’t been for naught. My day at work was going well when you were there and then you left and everything went wrong. And all I could think was ‘Where is he?’”
I smile, but not too much. I can’t let her know how happy this makes me. But I’m doing jumping jacks inside. I knew that she’d come around. Persistence is important with a girl like Em.
So we’re definitely dating. No more of this ambiguity that we were both adhering to.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

What Kind Of Day Has It Been

My day starts with Rebekah, my self-adopted sister, calling me to get coffee. We plan to meet at my coffeehouse, where the girl (Em) is working. Em is on the register and there’s a long line. I stand to the side and talk to her as she works. She likes it when I do that. Keeps her mind off all the people waiting for coffee. So I do my part--intermittent conversation filled with laughter and pointed observation. Eventually Rebekah shows up and I take her to work. She works at a pretzel stand in the Union Square Farmers Market. She reveals that she is considering becoming a hair colorist or stylist.
“Do you think I’d be happy doing that?”
“I don’t know. What do you want?”
Rebekah is at that stage of her life--post-college, search for personal meaning, what the hell am I doing with my life? We’ve all been there. I planned on being a lawyer at one point. And for a while there I wanted to be a political operative. Oh and there was a time I wanted to teach high school and coach forensics. It’s a period where your friends are your savior because your parents just want you pick a thread and be happy. (And financially solvent hopefully.)
--
Next up was the game. John and I were coaching today. (Head Coach Scott was away on business, so we had to take over.) The Bucks (that’s our team name) were amazing. Of course they’re only seven. So amazing is relative, I guess. They won 20-7. They killed the other team. It was awesome getting that first win of the season. And particularly pleasing given the thrashing that they were given last weekend.
--
And then I ran to work. I abhor work. And we were shorthanded. So you can imagine how my rather delightful day turned sour. But I left at a quarter to 11 because I had somewhere to go.
--
I walk into the Lakeside Lounge in the East Village and grab a beer. I head for the band. Tom Shaner. Never seen him before, but he’s quite good. I only caught the tail end of the set. (Covered Cold Water by Tom Waits. Anyone that covers Tom Waits is a friend.) I was there because on a couple songs, Em was back up vocaling. And the last song, Heart of Glass by Blondie, I got to see her sing. She wasn't expecting me to come. That was my surprise of the day. After the set, I go up to her. She turns around and yelps.
"I thought you couldn't come."
"I thought you said that this was important."
"How much did you see?"
"Just the tail end of the set. You've got a good voice."
She blushes.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Greater Tuna


I’m about to go to work. (I loathe my job. But that’s why it’s called a job, right?) I’m standing talking to the girl at her work, where she makes almost no money, but works there anyway because it’s a great place to work by all other means of discernment. Her co-worker Catherine is about to order dinner. She asks Em what she is going to have for dinner this evening.
“I’m having a bagel.”
In my head I think to myself, “That’s not a meal.” I leave a moment later and march into work early. I go up to the sous chef, who is my boy, and ask him to make a tuna to go. Our tuna is out of this world—black and white sesame crusted, seared rare, served over plump wild mushrooms and in a caper-brown butter sauce, all of which is finished off with a wasabi mayo drizzled on top. Men have killed other men over this tuna. And this was going to be the girl's dinner. Surprise gifts are better than any other kind. They’re unexpected and heart-warming.
I bring this to her. She sent me the picture above with this message: “How did I get to be so lucky?”

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Girl

So the girl and I have been spending a lot of time together recently. I can’t attribute it to anything particular. I’d like to think it’s due to the fact that she’s developing feelings for me. I, on the other hand, don’t like her that much. (This is a huge lie. I like her bunches.) But she’s showing some interest and my quixotic nature has left me in that hopeful place that I’m usually so loathe to occupy.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Map of the World

I’m standing in a crowded subway car on my way to my volunteer basketball coaching job with an empty coffee cup and paper bag (Valrhona chocolate Doughnut Plant doughnut inside) in one hand and the other clutched to a pole. There’s a woman in front of me, looking at a course schedule. I notice she has several white hairs on her head. You don't see that often. I mean she’s stunning in spite of what many feel are imperfections. She holds herself with a great deal of poise. She’s well-traveled; I can tell from the map of the world on her face. Her hands are far from worn, but by no means delicate. She’s the girl next door, if the girl next door were far more interesting.