Slinging and Hash

My coworkers are so young that I was sitting at the bar after my shift a few months ago, having a beer. The man next to me told me his name and that he was a sound editor at NPR. He asked me what I did, and I told him that I “sling hash here.” The bartender, young enough to be my son, said, “I thought you were a cook. You’re a drug dealer?” The sound editor nearly fell off his bar stool laughing and said, “I think that’s old diner slang.”

But today’s entry is about a different kind of sling. My left shoulder has been bothering me for a few weeks, but the pain has been fully manageable with Aleve and Tylenol… that is, until yesterday morning. I woke up in so much pain that I couldn’t stop crying, and didn’t until I got to Urgent Care.

I couldn’t possibly see how I was going to cook and wash dishes, so I gave Chef a heads up as to what was going on, and could he possibly find someone to work for me? To his absolute credit, for which I will thank him publicly, he told me to get to Urgent Care and let him know what they said. He’d find a way to work it out, even though there was no one to take my place. It created a tiger mom loyalty in me, and by the time I got to Urgent Care, as the tears flowed, I said, “there is no possible way that I can miss work tonight. If there’s any way you could treat this as a sports injury and just shoot it up with something, let’s do it.” If chef was willing to work a man down that night just so I was taken care of, the least I could do was try my hardest, exhausting all possible options, before staying home. I knew that I was going to either be miserable at work or miserable at home, so why not at least try to be miserable and make money at the same time?

The Urgent Care that I went to is incredibly risk-averse, the doctor told me, so he wasn’t allowed to put steroids directly into my shoulder, even though he thought it was the best course of treatment for what I needed in the moment (doesn’t work long-term). Instead, he did a long and thorough physical examination, determining that I had strained my rotator cuff, and that I should get it imaged with an Ortho to confirm it was just a strain and not an actual tear. If it’s just a strain, his recommendation is physical therapy. A tear requires surgery that, from what I hear, is relatively quick and easy, but the recovery is hell on wheels. One of my mom friends said that her son tore his, and just like the friends my age, had a difficult time with it. So I am definitely praying for a positive outcome, and if you’ll pray with me, send good vibes, use black magic, whatever, I’m game. Anything that taps into the power of the universe is fine with me. I know all of my readers can’t possibly believe in God, but even if you’re an atheist, believing in doctors is my first choice as well. Faith doesn’t come without shoe leather, and their work is as close to God’s as I’ve seen on this earth (there’s a reason I donate to MSF every chance I get).

As for the treatment I got yesterday, I chose a clinic that was close enough to walk to work from there, so after an IM injection of Toradol and oral Vicodin 5/325, I actually made it to my shift 30 minutes early, where I briefed Chef on all that had happened, and he thanked me profusely for coming in anyway, especially since my arm was in a sling to take pressure off my shoulder. I don’t wear it while working or typing, but other than that, I don’t take it off. I also realized that 325mg of Tylenol was probably not adequate, so I took an additional one. The doctor said that by the time I got home from work, the Toradol will have worn off, so I took two Aleve as well. Anything to relieve the inflammation, especially since I probably added to it last night. Even with Vicodin on board, everything still hurt like hell, especially after cleaning the kitchen, particularly sweeping & mopping. It was at that moment I thought, “maybe a desk job is for me,” and then I remembered that I was in just as much pain there, because the repetitive strain injuries never stopped, as well as more often than not, having a bad chair that always, always caused sciatica, as well as agitating the arthritis in my back. I absolutely understand that not all offices can afford Aerons, but so far, those have been the only chairs that don’t cause me pain. Even the knock-offs work, as long as they’re good ones and not the cheapest available.

I promise, I’m not snobby about it. Just worried for my own health. Even though osteoarthritis isn’t nearly as bad as rheumatoid, it’s no joke. It makes you feel like a very old person, no matter how young you are. Going from the kitchen to a desk job is just trading one type of pain for the other, equally severe in their own ways.

I definitely need to follow up with physical therapy, because with my level of activity, I’m likely to tear the rotator cuff up real good (if you’e going to do something, do it right).

And on that note, it’s time for a nap, provided I can find a comfortable position.

Flavored Coffee is for Young People

This entry is going to start out with a story that seems like a million years ago, but was really only about 17 (I think….). Before I met Dana, I dated a woman that was much older than me, but captured my heart with the simple fact that to her, everything was magic. Just an incredible lightness of being, the art of wearing rose-colored glasses no matter how crappy life got. Her attitude was just #goals for someone as alternately perky and jaded as me. And as different as we were, we were at the same points in our lives- both having just broken up with people we loved despite our differences- realizations that our partners were great people, but not great with us.

It was interesting to see people’s reactions to our age gap. My friends loved her. Her friends hated me, and hate is not too strong a word. They viewed me as the midlife crisis girltoy, and not a fully functioning adult with agency. The worst was judgmental anger from people in an age-gap relationship two years smaller than ours. I wish I had been strong enough back then to just say “bite me” and move on. But I wasn’t. I took everything personally and just hid in my shell.

I don’t think she was immune to judgment, either, because ultimately our relationship ended because she thought I was too young. Maybe I was. Maybe I wasn’t. Hard to tell in retrospect. I just know that I could have handled whatever life threw at us, but if we hadn’t broken up, it wouldn’t have created the door for Dana to open. She became my best friend because in the beginning, we didn’t know each other well at all. I just had to find a new gaggle of friends since most of my friends in Portland were also my then-girlfriend’s, and it didn’t feel like a safe place to fall. The friends I had that were the ultimate support didn’t live there- they met her through phone calls, as archaic as that sounds. I mean, I could still be friends with the ones that were mutual, but it wasn’t my goal to express anger or sadness in front of them, especially since I knew their reaction was going to be a ten gallon jug of “I told you so,” which is always so helpful in a breakup.

But the main thing our age gap provided me was an immense amount of laughter.

We were in Starbucks and she ordered a soy latte. I can’t remember exactly what I had, but if I’m guessing, either a raspberry or mint regular latte. She looked at me and said, “flavored coffee is for young people.” I wish I had been strong enough back then to just say “bite me” and move on.

And now it’s almost 20 years later, and every time I have a flavored coffee… every single time… that line runs through my head. Today it’s French vanilla creamer and dark roast. At 41, now I need to feel like a young person. So there. Flipping the script.

I’m drinking a lot of coffee this morning because even though I slept well, I’m working dish tonight from 1700-2300. I could take a nap, but I don’t want to. I want to watch the first snowfall of the season. It’s just magical, especially since I don’t drive. That way, I can just enjoy the snow without worrying about scraping off my car, or getting into an accident on the way and having to call the restaurant and say “I just slid into a ditch.” Well, unless my Uber driver does. I doubt the bus has that capability. I tend to take the bus in the snow, because if we’re in a wreck, the bus is gonna win.

It’s important for me to stay alive, because no one else is going to update this web site, and Facebook nags me all the time. I have 105 followers on my author page, and I’ll get passive-aggressive messages saying they haven’t heard from me in a while. It’s annoying, but also necessary. I took this job as a cook and dishwasher partly because I needed any job, and partly because my level in IT is “constantly connected to my job, tethered by phone and laptop.” I thought I would have more time to write, but what has actually happened is that I am so physically exhausted all the time that writing has taken a back seat to enjoying sleep and Aleve.™ I am constantly in pain, because I had arthritis before I started cooking, and the acrobatics required on both the line and in the dish pit don’t make that easier. However, I do think it has made my muscles stronger, which helps. More muscle mass has allowed my bones to relax a little, because they’re supported now.

It is not lost on me that I could have a cushy desk job and have a hell of a lot more money, but I am not convinced that I would be any happier, at least not yet. There are things about both blue and white collar jobs that just suck. But I’m never going to learn how to do things in a desk job that genuinely make other people’s faces light up.

My sister is a lobbyist, a rock star in her world. I used to be intimidated by that, until I realized that powerful people love to talk about food, so when I walk into a room, I’m also a rock star. People who have never worked in a restaurant, but whose imaginations are captured by TV shows, love to talk to me. I don’t really like the current slate of shows on The Food Network, etc., because I prefer the old school stand-and-stirs that actually educated people. Emeril before Emeril Live, for instance, even though I watched Emeril Live and learned to love it over time. But I’d rather watch old Julia Child episodes, or Justin Smith, or Martin Yan.

To date, the movie at which I’ve cried the hardest is Julie & Julia, because it reminded me of Dana- particularly the scene where Julia is chopping a mountain of onions to improve her knife skills…. and also myself, because I also had to buy mountains of carrots and celery to improve my own knife skills, and ruin lots of pieces of bread to learn how to flip eggs properly, as well as learning how to mix things like (pre-cooked) macaroni and cheese sauce by flipping it in the frying pan instead of using a spoon. We had a lot of mirepoix in those months. Interestingly enough, even though I am French-trained, the only thing I don’t know how to make is an omelette.

I tried the other day, because my roommate left eggs behind when he moved out, as well as Presidente butter and sharp cheddar. I got closer than I ever have, but it still looked like a waffle cone with cheese at the top (I was doing tri-fold). I need more practice, so eventually it will be off to the store to buy my own butter and eggs, because everything in my own pantry is vegan. This is because eventually, my restaurant will serve brunch, and I think I need to be prepared for the possibility that omelettes will be on the menu, and I refuse to be the only cook that can’t make one. Can’t is not in my vocabulary. I will make a hundred of them if I have to. I just need to invite 99 people to my house to eat the mistakes, which will still taste amazing, but look like a five-year-old made them. This is a problem because I barely know nine people in DC, much less 99. However, if Eight is Enough, I’m sitting pretty.

I just need to ask them beforehand what their views are on flavored coffee.

Spanked

From the moment I walked in today, I was in over my head. But it wasn’t just me. It was all of us. I arrived at 1500, which is generally the break between lunch and dinner. There’s a ramp up into chaos. Today, there wasn’t even a step. I hadn’t changed into my kitchen shoes before orders were being yelled at me. Thankfully, I heard them all, and got to work fast. In a kitchen, the conversation runs thusly:

Chef: That’s popcorn, pretzel, three mac and cheese all day, one with bacon.
Me: Heard, Chef
Chef: Thank you, sauté.

And then, while all that is firing, there are five more orders, and then five more, and then five more, and then five more, etc. We didn’t slow down until 2200, when I was cut, and then it was time to break down my station and clean up while the other cook transitions to the late night menu. As I walked out, there was a cover band in the beer garden playing The Backstreet Boys. I was going to skip the shift beer because I had eaten so much…. all the beers on our taps feel like drinking a loaf of bread at once… but the atmosphere was nice and I wanted to be a part of it. Generally, I strike up a conversation with someone. Tonight, I just played with my phone.

The only thing that truly went wrong was that I was asked to heat up some beer cheese for the pretzels, and when I was transferring it over to the line, I dropped it. I tried to save it, but someone had put the cold pan on the range so that the edge to pick it up was hot AF without telling me, so when I picked what I thought was a cold pan back up, it was a thousand degrees and I burned myself worse than I ever have before. My arm is missing at least three layers of skin, and I shrank back in horror… not because my arm hurt, but because beer cheese is expensive and time-consuming. It was a major fuck-up, and I own it. I could go on about how with better communication, I wouldn’t have burned myself, etc., but the buck ultimately stops with me. I took my eye off the range for ten seconds, and that’s all it took for the pan to superheat.

Other than that, though, I had a shift of which I can be proud. The prep cooks will have my ass in the morning, though. I don’t even want to think about it. Dirty looks that can’t be misconstrued even with a language barrier. They won’t care how busy we were. I guarantee it.

But that’s just how restaurants go. Prep cooks that never step up to the line have no concept of line time, and just how fast it moves, and how the pace trips everyone up at one time or another. The best of us have had their dumbass attacks, praying no one saw it. I was lucky enough that everyone and their dog was in the kitchen when the pan slipped out of my hand. I will never live it down. Five years from now, they’ll still remember that I dropped the beer cheese that one time in ’18. It’s just our nature. War stories are our jam…. and if you only make one mistake in a shift, consider yourself lucky.

Tomorrow is my dreaded dishwashing shift, then back on the line at 1600. I used to like being the dishwasher more than I do now, because I liked being left alone to my own devices. Now, it just feels isolating, like kitchen jail. The prep area and the line feel so far away, literally and metaphorically. However, when I feel down about it, I remember that anyone else in the restaurant could walk out except for me, and we’d be fine. I am the key to the whole operation. When Jesus said the last will be first, I’m pretty sure dishwashers are who he meant, because you can run a restaurant down a cook, but you can never run a restaurant without a dishwasher.

Write it down.

The thing that I do like about the dish pit is that when it’s the craziest on the line, I am off in my own little world. Not my circus, not my monkeys. Occasionally, I’ll get called up to the line if there’s more work than two cooks can reasonably do, but on a Sunday, that’s rare.

Cooks are notoriously suspicious people, so pretend I didn’t say that. I probably jinxed us for the whole day.

We’ll probably get spanked.

Pit Duty

Today was very long. I got up early and slammed two large iced coffees with coconut creamer, hoping I’d be awake before I had to show up at work. Sunday is the one day a week I’m scheduled as the dishwasher, where when I walk in the door, the amount I have to do is overwhelming. There is no “easing into it.” I clean all four bathrooms, mop everything, and then go into the kitchen, where the prep cooks have been at it since 0900, so the stack is usually above my head.

The one funny story I have about cleaning the bathrooms is that I don’t have children, and I’ve never had a niece or nephew (or babysat a child) who had a Diaper Genie.™ You cannot imagine how long I stood there, just dumbfounded and scratching my head at how to work it. There was no one else in the restaurant but me, so I have to get out my phone and YOUTUBE HOW TO EMPTY A DIAPER GENIE. And even then, I asked the prep cooks with kids if I’d done it right, and they told me they were too expensive and they didn’t have them, either. No one came up to me later and said that I broke it, so I guess it went okay. That was several weeks ago, and now I wish every trash can was a Diaper Genie. I want to empty all trash cans without having to touch anything. People are disgusting.

We weren’t terribly busy today, so there were a couple of times when the dishes were done that I got called up to the line. My lead line cook said, “that is a sexy, sexy plate.” He’s said it before, and I blush every time…. and yet, I also know he’s telling the truth. I do love making people feast with their eyes first. I know I’m not the first person to say that cooking is art, but I am a huge advocate. Of course I want everything to taste better than it looks, which means that I want every dish to be over the top delicious because the plate has already made you smile.

And now that it’s late and I’m getting ready for bed, I am starting to concentrate on what I’m going to do with my next two days off. I need to go shopping for a new outfit since I’m interviewing for a job on Tuesday at University of Maryland. I discovered this when I did all my laundry and there are still food stains on the knees of all my pants. All of them. You might ask how one manages to get food stains on one’s knees. That’s pretty simple, actually. Everything in the kitchen has to be scrubbed down at the end of the night, so I’ve had plenty of evenings end with my kneecaps in aioli (compound mayonnaise, generally containing garlic) as I’m soaping up the lowboy (I’ll be delighted if you think that’s something dirty).

Generally, because of the acrobatics involved with cooking, food, cuts, and burns magically appear in weird places all the time. The one time it was not so magical was dropping a two quart jug of ice-cold kimchi down the front of my shirt. Luckily, only the juice splashed everywhere, and the cabbage stayed in place…. but boy, did I smell delicious…. for days.

If I get the job at University of Maryland, it is unlikely that large vats of food will fall on me, but then again, I haven’t asked all the hard questions. They were very impressed at my first interview that I cook professionally, and unsurprisingly, ever since I’ve been able to say in any interview that I cook professionally, I’ve been the most popular candidate, but only if there’s an upcoming company picnic.

In the past, though, it’s been funny how fast I’ve been relegated to salads and desserts, because men grill. Period. The end. I have had my fair share of hockey pucks to know that this should not be a thing, and yet, it persists. Pro tip: if you grill at your parties and they offer to help, trust the people who do it for a living.

I expect no thanks or praise- tell them you cooked everything yourself. Just don’t make me eat any more burgers that could more accurately be described as a lump of coal. I’ll be thrilled.

Company picnics aside, I’m excited about the interview. I talked to my manager about it, and I’ve already told her I have no plans to quit at the restaurant- there’s just some scheduling we need to work out. So, it was easy to get the full day off on Tuesday because I didn’t give her a heart attack. It was actually really sweet of her- I have both Monday and Tuesday off this week, and I promise you that two days off in a row is an absolute luxury for anyone in the industry. My usual “weekend” is Saturday and Monday.

Tomorrow is about preparing my body and mind. New clothes, perhaps an eyebrow wax (so huge right now I could donate to eyebrow-less children at this point). I really, really want to get my nails done, but it’s illegal to wear nail polish in the kitchen and I don’t like regular manicures. I’d rather have nothing at all than go without acrylics…. mostly because I’d rather spend $25 and have polish that lasts for 10 days than pay $12 and have the paint chip that afternoon. I shall think about a pedicure. I could care less about the polish- the nail technician will massage feet that have never needed it more. I might even be able to walk without pain on Tuesday. I know I’ve said this before, but it really is embarrassing when I wake up and toddle down the stairs one step at a time, as if I am hurling myself toward my dad for the first time.

The thing is, though, even in my thoughts he’s right there to catch me.

I don’t know if I’ll have time to write again before I go into The Big Show.™ It’s at 1300 on Tuesday and will last approximately three hours, because I have to meet each and every person I’ll be working for and with, plus a few interns that will be working for me. Thoughts and prayers, even the black magic variety, are welcome. Knowing you’re out there cheering me on is just one more thing that makes this easy.

Easier than figuring out a Diaper Genie.

Noon

It is 10 minutes until 1200, when my alarm is supposed to go off. I got my schedule wrong last night- I thought I was supposed to work until 0130, but I was finished by 2230. It’s tonight and tomorrow that I “clopen,” slang for closing down the restaurant and being back in by Sunday at 1000.

I’m slated for the dish pit on tomorrow’s shift, which means that I will have to set up the restaurant for lunch. Of everything I have to do, that’s probably my least favorite, but there is only a small jump from last to first. Tonight is pantry station, which means cold foods and fried brussels sprouts, chips and salsa, etc. I get paid too much to think that anything is too bad. And what I mean is that being a dishwasher and line cook will never make me rich, but in comparison to other jobs I’ve had in the same industry, my hourly wage is insane. Plus, I also get vacation days (which I receive after six months), another thing I’ve never had from a small, independently owned restaurant. I also have the option to sign up for health insurance, but I like the state-run plan I’m on now, so I’m going to wait and see how my income averages out to see if I need to change it. If I switch to private insurance, my co-pays and drug costs will go up.

Although I am not a candidate for advancement, not wanting to go into management, I do get raises based on how long I’ve worked there and/or COLA (cost of living adjustment- my obsession with soda makes this my favorite acronym).

There is only one problem, and it has nothing to do with business. It’s that the woman who has slowly become one of my best work friends (despite the language barrier, closing more every day) is moving to Atlanta. I think either tonight or tomorrow is her last shift, after only finding out she was moving yesterday. I am heartbroken. Who else is going to hug me every day? Who else is going to make fun of me in a language I don’t always understand, just nodding and laughing because I am great at self-deprecation? But, in true kitchen wisdom, “go cry in the walk-in.” There’s really no time for emotion on the job, so that is a long-standing kitchen joke that works across all restaurants everywhere.

However, she is so loved that I’m not the only one with ALL THE FEELS. She gets along with everyone, from waitstaff to dishwasher. It also leaves us in a bit of a bind because she’s additionally a prep cook, so we’ll have to do a lot more at night rather than it all getting done before we arrive.

I wouldn’t mind a few prep shifts, leaving the restaurant earlier or getting doubles to increase my income… but to tell the truth, I’m really bad at it. This is because I will follow a recipe up and to a point, then decide I can make it taste better (ego, but not unjustified)…. but I do it with a pinch of this, a cup of that, so that I have no idea how to modify said recipe when I’m done because I don’t keep track of small improvements along the way. I can’t help myself- it’s a sickness.

For instance, Lanagan’s Pub Chili at Biddy McGraw’s was my own recipe, I always made it, and when I needed to write down the recipe, it took me two or three weeks, because every batch was a tiny bit different, as was my recipe for pancakes and oatmeal. I had several customers who came to the pub for brunch specifically to eat my food, something of which I am intensely proud. My pancakes in particular were a big hit, thin and crispy around the edges like a crepe with hazelnut fluff, the result of extra butter on the griddle.

It is always my goal to make foodies cry. One of the best chefs in Portland sent me a text and said, “even though it’s not a true Texas red, your chili is feckin’ delicious.” But he understood why I did it, adding light and dark red beans to make the ground beef stretch. That was 10 years ago, and I still remember that text dinging as if it were yesterday.

Sufficed to say if you have the ability to invite me over to cook dinner, you won’t regret it. The best indicator I have of this is that I made a French onion soup that sold out in less than one shift, and was supposed to last three days. Again, butter.

I have a keen sense that I am in the hospitality industry. My job is to delight people’s palates when I have free range, and I am comfortable with almost all nationalities. I’d love to work on my African food, though, learning to make Ethiopian injera, the flatbread you use instead of utensils for spicy beef stews that make my own palate dance.

There are two Ethiopian restaurants I highly recommend in Silver Spring. The first is Lucy, and the second is Arbol. Neither have web sites, you’ll just have to show up; you can also order from GrubHub or Seamless. I don’t recommend ordering from home, though. Get it fresh and hot, caliente y picante (temperature hot and spicy hot).

Also, if I cook for you, know ahead of time that portion control is important, because I have a blatant disregard for fat and calories. This is because I’ve read French Women Don’t Get Fat. Mireille Guiliano asserts that the reason Americans are fat is not because of the content of the food, but because we eat so damn much of it. Believe me, it’s true. Restaurant portions in the United States are generally out of control.

It’s also the entire reason I gained so much weight when I first met Dana, because as a Cordon Bleu trained chef, she fed me rich, rich food in stunning amounts. I took the weight off, and am now obsessed with keeping it that way. I don’t weigh myself, ever, but I back off the intake when I feel my pants are getting tight. I don’t want to go back to being overweight, and I don’t want to spend money on new pants, although it’s probably time, anyway.

Some of my Dockers are stretched at the seams, not from being overweight, but from the acrobatics involved with working in a kitchen. I have designated the black ones for work, because if I get bleach on them, I can fix them with a Sharpie. 😛

The thing I have spent money on this month is drugs. It is amazing how cheap Zyrtec, Tylenol, Aleve, etc. are on Amazon, because they sell Costco sized bottles that render each pill about .004 cents. I got a year’s worth of ibuprofen for $11.00, and 200 Zyrtec for the same price. If you’re not watching your cash flow, a year’s worth of Zyrtec is only $21.00. I just didn’t want to wipe out all my money until my next paycheck. I’m not the type person that particularly enjoys splurging one week and peanut butter sandwiches every meal the next.

I also have Uber to think of, because the buses aren’t running by the time I’m finished closing down the restaurant. I don’t particularly want to buy a car, because even though I could save up the money to buy one, I don’t want to pay for upkeep and insurance…. and it’s fun when someone else is in charge and I can just check out in the backseat and play with my iPhone…. and especially with Uber Pool, I only pay about five dollars a trip. They just add up, as does adding money to my WMATA SmartCard.

Public transportation is one of the reasons I love DC so much, because it’s cheap and readily available. Houston and Portland just do not have the infrastructure for it. Being one stop away from DC doesn’t hurt, either, because I can get nearly everywhere in the area in 40 minutes, even Silver Spring to Alexandria. Especially in heavy traffic, I couldn’t drive it that fast. So, at least for the moment, getting a car is not even worth it.

The only time I wish I had a car is for heavy shopping days, and those are so few and far between that it doesn’t really matter. Uber takes care of that, too, but I always feel bad when the driver has to wait for me to unload all my crap. But sometimes, it’s a blessing, because they’ll help me unload it. Some do, some just stare. It’s always a toss-up.

And now it’s time for me to slam iced coffee and get dressed, because I have officially written way past noon. I might even take a shower. Lord knows I need it. There’s probably aioli in my hair.

Sabado Gigante

I forgot that in addition to the brewpub, we also cater large parties. So, last night was indeed insane. The pub itself was steadily busy all night, and we were hosting a wedding. Last night, I was triple threat material. I made food for catering, I worked the line, and I washed dishes all at different points during the evening. By the time the pub was closing, there were only two of us left, so it took us longer than usual to shut it down. I didn’t walk into my house until after 0230. As I have said before, catering is an entirely different set of dishes and pans… but since I did the dishes for the last catering event, my coworker stepped in and said, “you just close down the line. I’ll do the dishes this time.” That was hug from Jesus material right there. My coworker’s grandmother owned a restaurant for like, 40 years, so he’s been in the restaurant business since he was tall enough to see the line. If there were only two people left to clean everything up, I couldn’t have asked for better. Even though it took an extra hour than normal, it was still an amazing feat to shut down the kitchen and catering in two hours (we close on the weekends at midnight).

I was supposed to go in at 1300 today, but since we still haven’t found a replacement dishwasher, the kitchen manager called and asked if I would come in later and close the restaurant in the dish pit. I didn’t mind in the slightest. I have time to take a nap, or if I’ve already had just too much coffee, time to actually eat a meal while sitting down. Believe me when I say that is a luxury.

I never mind closing the restaurant when I don’t have to be there until 1500-1700. It’s kind of cool having a job where all my days are free. It’s nice not to have to take off work for things like doctor’s appointments, getting to the bank/post office before it closes, etc. Plus, I also have time to read, write, and edit.

Speaking of which, my signed copy of Argo came in the mail, and it’s so funny; IMG_0106I am glad that his name is printed under it, because from the signature, you could never make out “Antonio J. Mendez.” But the signature is the most important part. I’ve owned the Kindle version for ages. I just wanted a real piece of history, and I’ve been in love with the story since the movie came out. I had to know what was real vs. reel. I am not going to tell you what’s what, though, because that would defeat the purpose of getting you to buy your own copy. Although I will tell you that the shop in which my dad ordered this one is now out, because I got the last signed one they had. Because of this, my dad joked, “enjoy it while you have it- it may become your retirement plan.” There’s only one person I wish I could show it to that isn’t with us anymore, my stepsister, Susan.

She used to be the head of the Mexican Studies department at University of Texas- San Antonio…. as big a fan of Mendez as me, if not more so. I used to laugh at her rants about casting Ben Affleck, not because her point wasn’t valid, but because she was so funny about it. I told her that she was right through my shaking laughter- that when I see my version of Tony in film, it’s more akin to Cheech Marin (who, even though he’s a comic, I think would have done very well). But even Susan admitted that while Affleck wasn’t even her last choice, he was good in the role.

Here’s a real picture of Tony with President Carter after the op was a success, a perfect thing to add to my perfect “Sabado Gigante:”

Carter

The Goose I Wish I Could Bottle

One of our dishwashers has left, so instead of being on the line last night, I spent my shift in the dish pit. Not a bad deal, considering that the restaurant was very busy and I was off in my own little world. Of course, I was just as busy as they were, just busting out baskets of dishes as fast as I possibly could, but it’s a different kind of busy than being on the brigade.

I had a lot to think about, and now that washing dishes has become rote, rumination ate my lunch… but this time, in a good way. I thought about all the good changes that have happened in my life with my mood & behavior. I thought about all the changes that might be coming in the future. I thought about my past and how everything has brought me to this moment. How maybe, just maybe, I had to lose everything to find myself… with the exception of losing my mother.

I don’t connect her death with “breaking eggs to make an omelet,” but I do think that learning to deal with that grief every day has changed me in ways that both hinder and push me to be a better person at the same time…. mostly that death can happen in an instant, and 65 not that much older than 40, which reinforced mortality for me and what I might want to do with the time I have left.

Most of it is continuing this quest for self-knowledge, something that my INFJ personality requires. My inner landscape is deep, and only one or two people are invited at any given time to walk in it…. although I am not immune to the fact that in some ways, I invite all of you at once, because my personal flaws, failures, and achievements might make you reach into yourself, another hallmark of an INFJ…. leading others by example. It is a journey of compromise. There are always going to be things I’m willing to let go of in a public space, because it allows me to say, “I’ve already thought about that. I can move on to something else.” There is also a part of me that is intensely private, and though I am very funny in person, just not willing to dive deep. The extroverted side of me limits me to topics in which I can make everyone laugh. Most people think that introverts aren’t good in social situations, but that just isn’t true. It’s just that true extroverts feed off of others’ energy, and after being with other people, I need time and space for my batteries to recharge before I venture out again. I am also more comfortable with small groups rather than large, or being in front of an audience/congregation where I am speaking, but not personally connected to everyone in the room. That part is too much for me, because as an empath and Highly Sensitive Person, large groups make my mirror neurons go off and I can feel emotions from everyone around me, both positive and negative. When they are negative, I feel the impulse to FIX ALL THE THINGS, and it is overwhelming to an enormous degree.

In fact, this is sometimes why being at any type of job is difficult, because I know all my coworkers, and therefore care about their energy just as much as mine. It’s not enough to make me stay home, of course, but my inner landscape keeps running no matter where I am.

I was in that space last night, trying to block out the world around me so that I could concentrate on both getting all the dishes done in record time as not to leave a mess for anyone else, and to give myself time to really think.

Because I was so closed off, I didn’t even hear one of my coworkers approaching, where she grabbed my sides and goosed me so hard that it both tickled me and scared the life out of me. I was laughing my ass off from the dopamine injection of happiness, and knowing that she really, really got me. I’d been had. I jumped sky high, which made her laugh equally hard.

I also smiled to myself that it felt like a cute little flirt from a straight woman, something that makes me happy because it’s not going anywhere, it’s just fun. Just because it seemed like a flirt doesn’t mean it was. It was just an ego booster that made my heart do a cute little flip, and a moment of wondering how I could get her back in kind. I’m not very good at that sort of thing, so I just let it go. The feel-good sensation has lasted ever since. It’s such a good feeling to know that I am liked and valued at work.

So much so that I wish I could bottle that feeling and spray a little on when I feel down. The “goosee” doesn’t speak enough Spanish to explain to the “gooser” how good I felt, but it reminded me of a comment I got on Facebook, that having a Spanish-speaking girlfriend would be motivation to learn much faster. Really must look into that in the future.

Right now, though, I am not even awake enough to speak English. I took two Benadryl last night in order to sleep deeply, which gives me vivid dreams and a monster hangover. I’ve had a lot of iced coffee, but also a Klonopin,™ so I am geared up and calmed down simultaneously. I find that it helps to take a Klonopin before work, because when things get crazy at the pub, I need the storm to be external and not inside me…. to be of it, but not in it, if that makes any sense at all. On a Saturday night, things will be relentless no matter what station I’m working…. although I have it much easier when it is raining because our beer garden is where the most people congregate. I can basically tell the flow of business before I even walk in due to the weather. Tonight is a toss-up, because right now there is a lot of cloud cover, and it looks like it’s going to rain, but no indication that it’s really going to happen. So I need to be prepared for all possibilities, from moderately busy to insane.

Tonight is a night in which I also need to come straight home and go to bed, because my night won’t end until approximately 0100, and my shift on Sunday starts at 1300. It is both a curse and a blessing, because it’s hard to be out that late and in that early, but the plus side is that I will end early and come in much later on Monday, and everyone else’s Monday is my Friday.

I have plans with friends on both Tuesday and Wednesday, something that does not happen often, but for which I am completely grateful.

I don’t have to bottle good feelings, they’re already out there, just waiting for me to grab them. It’s an excitement I hope is tangible to everyone else, because it certainly is for me. My Bob Esponja y los Pantalones Largos beating heart is in full force…. and in case you’re wondering, I do watch it.912ILZXp1fL._SY679_ Lots of my friends have said they picked up English from television, so why should Spanish be any different? I understand enough already to get the basic plot, I already know the characters, but TV in Spanish can and will up my game.

Watching Yo Soy Betty, la Fea when I’d go to Mexican restaurants in Houston was just as awesome. You probably know it as the adapted American series, Ugly Betty. As good as it is, though, SpongeBob Squarepants’ lessons of love, inclusion, and how to be cheerful even in the face of madness have stuck with me for ages.

One of the funniest gags that comes to mind is that Sandy Cheeks is originally from Texas, and she gets very homesick. So SpongeBob and his friends decide to throw her a party based on what they think Texas is. Ten gallon hats are represented by those giant water dispensers, and I laughed until I cried.

Because sometimes, just sometimes, being homesick for Texas is when I could use some of those bottled good feelings.