Lanagan

My chef asked me if he could call me “Lanagan” a few weeks ago, and I smiled to myself. Most of the friends who have called me that aren’t in my daily life, and I didn’t know how much I missed it. So, of course, every time I walk into the kitchen now, from the back I hear my last name echoing through the whole place. It completes me- giving a piece of myself back to me that I didn’t know was missing.

It also reminds me of a great memory- the first time someone called out “Lanagan” in a kitchen, and both Dana and I turned around. Initially, we had the conversation about last names because we were thinking of conceiving, and though we never did, “Lanagan” stuck for her, too. Somehow, it was even better hearing her respond to “Lanagan” than it was to respond myself.

I love how these little moments come to me and I smile. The old axiom is true- don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. Having a relationship last over seven years is a win, and I never mistake the part for the whole. I can’t- without Dana, I wouldn’t have a job right now (she’s the cook that taught me to cook- one of several, but the most consistent).

And speaking of jobs, it’s actually “my Saturday,” provided that no one gets sick or otherwise calls out at the pub. On my to-do list for today is getting TSA pre-check at the airport. There are places to do the interview that are closer, but National is on the Yellow Line, and I already know where it is. That is always a huge factor, because I would rather travel longer than get lost. Besides, I’m in the middle of several great books, and trains are invaluable time for reading.

I also need a haircut and some groceries, but I think that will have to wait until I get back from the airport. I am feeling lazy this morning, even though I slept very well last night. It’s less of a go-back-to-bed feeling and more of an I-wish-there-were-cartoons feeling. That being said, I can’t actually watch cartoons this morning because I am out of cereal, which is basically a prerequisite for animation in the AM. My being out of cereal is probably the only reason you’re hearing from me right now.

I’m writing today because I got an e-mail yesterday about how Dooce has turned into a shitty writer because her site is now all ad copy and being funny…. something about “she wasn’t always a shitty writer, but she is now.” My response was that it was now her job to tell me when to retire- she could just re-send that e-mail. It will probably be my epitaph- “she wasn’t always a shitty writer, but she is now.”

I am trying my best to write when I actually have something to say. The best preaching advice I’ve ever gotten, which I’ve extrapolated to blogging as well, is, “when you run out of things to say, stop talking.” There is no reason to try and fill 15 minutes when you only have nine of material.

As 41 Approaches…

My birthday has gotten started a bit early. My dad asked me what I wanted for my birthday, and I said, “a new phone.” So I picked one out on Amazon, and I am ridiculously happy with it. It’s a Samsung Galaxy, my go-to in terms of new phone purchases (I’ve had three in various versions). This is because I download a LOT, and iPhones fill up fast with no way to add extra space. My current phone is, I think, 32 GB, but I added a 128 GB expansion card. I haven’t added my music to it, but my library of podcasts is extensive. I download them all because most Metro stations are underground and reception is spotty at best. Pro Tip: buy a refurbished phone and pay outright so that you are not on the hook with your cell phone company in terms of paying it off. There are also different variations of the same phone… for instance, you cannot root into mine (nerd alert- no need to carry the nerdiness further by explaining why), but I didn’t want to, anyway. Not my bag, baby.

Back to the cool stuff about extra space. Both Netflix and Amazon Prime will let you download movies and TV shows, which can take up plenty of room, especially if you are downloading a whole season at once. Prime has a limit on the number of downloads in terms of things that are temporarily licensed to them, but you can download anything and everything they produce themselves… For instance, on my last phone I had every episode of One Mississippi and The Man in the High Castle. Invaluable waiting in the ER, the DMV, the Metro during outages, etc.

The only thing is that it is such a powerful computer that you must have a battery saving app to go with it. My former go-to was Juice Defender, but for some reason, the link to the professional version is still live, but it says you need the free version to get it to work, and when I clicked on the link to grab it, I got a 404 error. I got Google to refund my money and bought a subscription to Kaspersky Battery Life: Saver & Booster instead. So far, it’s been magnificent. I highly recommend buying the professional version, because even though the free one works, it is inundated with annoying ads, and it’s not that expensive.

I have only bought two apps in the entirety of my smart phone-owning life. The second is Alarm Clock for Me. It looks like an old school digital clock radio, but it has some amazing features when you unlock the professional version, like waking up to your own music, a gentle lead-in feature where the alarm starts out soft and gets louder over time, weather report in the top corner, and something new- perfect bedtime, which tells you what time to go to sleep in order to wake up refreshed for said alarm. If you hate waking up, might I suggest a military grade phone cover for when you feel like throwing it against the wall? 😛

You would think the birthday surprises would end there, but wait! There’s more!

I think I genuinely frightened Dan with all my burns. They do look pretty gross, to be honest. So, she pulls out a package from Amazon and says, “open it.” Inside are Kevlar cuffs that prevent burns and cuts. I was told specifically to take a picture in the kitchen with me wearing them.

Yes, ma’am.

I didn’t have time tonight, but I will before the week is out. They were actually Autumn’s idea, because she’s worked in a kitchen before. Apparently, they also come in gloves, but I definitely wouldn’t wear those. I would be mortified if my grip on pots and pans was even more loose than it is right now…………… I’m sure they’re helpful for both chopping and taking things out of the oven, but they picked well. They’re yellow, so I look like Wonder Woman.

I was half hoping that I would make a mistake cleaning the griddle tonight and accidentally slam my wrist down like I’ve done a thousand times before (the griddle brick has a mind of its own) just to see my cuffs in action. Alas, tonight went perfectly, so no dice. I am sure I will have other dumbass attacks in the future where they will save my bacon, though.

On Sunday, we had our end-of-summer company party, where the flyer said that significant others and children were welcome. I decided to ask Dan if she wanted to come, because we’re good friends, and therefore, she’s significant to me. No one gave me any grief about it, but if they had I was fully prepared to say that I’d just adopted her.

She got to meet my whole crew, who said some extraordinarily nice things about me, and not just because Dan was there. My lead line cook says every shift that he’s not going to turn me into the chef he wants me to be, but the chef I want me to be…. that inside of a month, I’d be ready to run this kitchen, and inside of two, I’d be ready to run my own. I am growing to accept this praise at my ability, because there were so many awkward and embarrassing moments in my past cooking jobs that I still see myself as a n00b, hanging desperately onto Dana’s coattails. Now it’s time to get on board with the fact that I don’t need to fill her shoes. I brought my own.

In fact, one of my managers brought his girlfriend to the party, and he introduced me as their most dependable employee, and that it was embarrassing how many times I’d bailed them out of a jam. Let me assure you that you don’t even have to be that great a cook for a compliment like that to carry you very, very far in this industry. You can be the best line cook in the entire world, but showing up is even more important. This is not an industry known for emotionally stable, responsible workers. Egos clash. Brown bottle flu happens, as does “I didn’t know I was working today.” But the team I’ve got now has none of those problems. We love working together, and it shows. I am being rewarded beyond my wildest imagination. People have started to call my lead line cook, me, and our most experienced expo “The A-Team.”

It really is amazing how even though I’ve been working on internal validation for years, I’ve grown exponentially with some external praise. It’s not required, but it is definitely changing the way I see myself. I am not sure that I ever want to be a chef, but that’s not the point. The point is that someone believes in me enough to say that I’m capable of it.

Quick aside for people not in the know….. I get called a chef all the time, because people who don’t work in kitchens tend to call all cooks “chef.” But chef literally means “boss,” and there can be only one. For most of us, it feels disrespectful to be called a chef when we haven’t earned it, but we also don’t expect everyone on earth to understand the inner workings of the culinary world. So, we might be a little internally irritated, but we won’t say anything. However, if I do earn the title, you’ll be able to hear me scream from coast to coast. Fair warning.

Because of jumping back into the kitchen, my 40th trip around the sun has been an incredible year of self-discovery, reaching heights I never thought possible. It has allowed me to become less self-deprecating, which you do when you believe in yourself. I mean, I still tell jokes at my own expense, but they aren’t deep jabs. They’re actually funny.

Which has been another hallmark of my 40th year…. giving myself permission to be funny again, after years of grief and loss. Though losing my mother has reworked my version of normal, I am glad to see that with the passage of time normal hasn’t been stolen from me altogether. The only time that I really feel punched in the stomach is when I can’t do things like call her up and say, “you won’t believe how amazing I’m doing at work. I’m even having trouble.” Through our long relationship, though, I know exactly what she would say…. “I certainly can believe it. You can do anything. Just remember to wear your Kevlar cuffs, because those burns look like they hurt.”

Yes, ma’am.

Maxwell House Max

This morning I am sitting in the sun room with a large cup of Maxwell House™ Max, a new product that has 1.75x the amount of caffeine as a regular cup of coffee. I have some errands to run and chores to do, so I don’t feel bad about front loading a lot of chemical fortitude. If I had to take a wild guess, brewed coffee is getting its ass kicked by energy drinks, and this is basically “shots fired.” I like it black with a good amount of Splenda,™ because there are a lot of chocolate undertones you miss if you add creamer.

Plus, it’s not very expensive. Coffee can just be a beverage again instead of a lifestyle choice. Even I can’t pinpoint the percentage of my income that has gone to outrageously expensive beans, but I guarantee that it’s astronomical. That being said, I do save a lot of money even with buying expensive beans, because it’s still cheaper than going to a coffee shop and paying for one cup at a time.

Sometimes I marvel at how we got here- that the market will bear $3 for a plain cup of coffee. I save a little bit at Starbucks, because people give me gift cards all the time, and because I’m a Gold Member, I get free refills on coffee & tea. Because of this, I have learned that Venti is Italian for “too lazy to get up.” Also, pro tip- SBUX coffee is so much better if you buy the beans and brew them in your own coffee pot… two reasons. You can make it to your own taste, and you know exactly how long it’s been sitting there.

I’d like to support my local indie coffee shops, but since I get gift cards to Starbucks, free coffee is too good to pass up. One $15 gift card will keep me in coffee for two weeks.

However, I am guessing that you don’t come to this web site to hear me extol the virtues of coffee… well, at least, not all of you. You want to know what’s been going on in my life, and I haven’t updated you in a while.

Samantha has signed up for cosmetology school at the Aveda Institute, which is 223 feet from the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro stop. She’d never taken public transit before, so she wanted me to go with her on a “dry run” to make sure she knew where she was going on the first day. It was absolutely adorable, really. I don’t know anyone who is better at “winning friends and influencing people,” so not only did we get where we were going fairly fast, on the way back we made friends with the bus driver… well, she did, anyway. I just sat back and interjected into the conversation, as I am wont to do. He told us that he was from Haiti, and he was about my age, so I asked him, you don’t have to answer this if you don’t want to, but did you come here to escape Baby Doc? He said, and this is a direct quote, how the fuck did you know that? Get off this bus. He made a big show of opening the door. It was a Slumdog Millionaire moment as I remembered that my dad was a missionary in Haiti in the ’80s.

Then, a couple of days later, we had a wind storm that sounded like a freight train, blowing the side door open at our house and blowing debris and branches all over the ciy. So far, I only know of one person that died, a six-year-old who was hit by a branch in just the right spot to cause his mortality. In terms of history, one of the trees that President Washington planted at Mount Vernon was knocked over, as well.

Everyone in our household stayed safe, and we didn’t lose electricity… even though the wind at National Airport reached 70mph. As Ron White so eloquently put it, it’s not that the wind is blowing, it’s what the wind is blowing. He was talking about a tornado, but the point is the same. You might be able to outrun the wind itself, but not the car bumper it’s carrying.

I am now reading my second book for review, an advance copy that’s not even on Amazon yet… I suppose you would say that I’m a beta reader, because this is far past first draft work. I’m not far enough along in the book to tell you if the story is better than The Reel Sisters, but I can tell you that the writing style is much more advanced and closer to the fiction I’ve enjoyed before I started reviewing professionally.

I’m hoping my editor sticks with me, because even though I can’t send her a copy of the book (I’m sworn to secrecy), she can at least tell me if the review is good enough for publication or to go back to the drawing board.

As I told her, no one in formal writing makes it on their own…. or they lie. When my first review got published, my e-mail to her said, we did it.

This web site is absolutely not formal writing. It’s just whatever I’m thinking that day… and the very next day, I might say the exact opposite. Sometimes I’ve changed my mind. Sometimes it’s just cognitive dissonance in which each idea is true to me and I carry them both.

I don’t have a problem with thinking two opposite things at once. It’s like love. You never forget that your partner is an amazing part of your world, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t occasionally fantasize about smothering them in their sleep and collecting the insurance money when they haven’t taken out the garbage like you asked them to do two days ago.

Because I’m single, I get the pleasure of being annoyed at myself for those things. I can’t decide if that’s better or worse. Probably better, because I haven’t broken up with me yet…. even on the days I wish I could, like when I’m really mean to me before I’ve had my coffee.