Big Night -or- Low and Slow

I got to the pub around 4:30, because even though I wasn’t officially on the schedule until 5:00, I had stuff to do. I got some t-shirts, I took my time getting ready, and I just watched for a few minutes before I took Rachel out of her sheath. Then, it was business time.618uwbCFL3L._SL1500_ However, I did not get to use her as much as I wanted, because there was too much to do in other stations. I used her more with prep for the next day than I did during my actual shift, where I watched with trepidation as my kitchen partner used her for tomatoes. She made short work of them, but as I’ve said before, skins are death to a blade, but being only hours old, I reasoned it was okay and went to my happy place.

As I predicted, it was literally walking into a hurricane, as you are wont to do in a pub kitchen at Happy Hour on a Friday. I introduced myself to my kitchen partner. It was his third day. Luckily, we had an experienced cook coming to join us, because my kitchen partner only knew two days more than I did. There were orders coming through that no one had shown either of us how to make, but having been cooks before, we pulled it out of the fire, as it were. Once she got there, relief was palpable. We were “in the weeds,” and when it’s that busy, it took us hours to pull ourselves back out…. and I’m not sure that we actually did. Eventually, it just slowed down. At one point, we were up to an hour wait, not for the food, but the number of people waiting for tables. As I’ve said before, this particular pub is quite popular.

At one point, I was moved to the back kitchen for the sole purpose of making one batch of fries after another, which I deemed the most important job of all of us, because pubs get judged on their fries more than any other thing…. especially at Happy Hour, when they become an entrée.

We serve ours tossed in salt and Parmesan. It was awe-inspiring watching the lead cook toss the very largest bowl in the kitchen, because she’s maybe five feet tall, and about my body build.WW-SantaCruzGarlicFries-Up Once I’ve been there long enough to make suggestions, I want to add garlic fries to the menu if its welcome, because the fries at The Laurelwood are some of the best I’ve ever put in my mouth. But my job is not to do anything but watch right now…. and some kitchen managers are open to menu suggestions, and some aren’t. For reasons I will not disclose, Jorgé does not work there anymore, so it remains to be seen what the new kitchen manager will allow. We’re hoping to get the position filled by next week.

As the fry cook, I was also in charge of salads and Brussels sprouts, which we deep fry until they’re crispy and toss in Ponzu sauce. Because the prep cooks had taken care of most everything, I didn’t get to use Rachel much at all, but my kitchen partner freaked out because my knife was also his favorite brand, and he has a Global. Here’s the thing about Globals, Wusthofs, Henkels, etc. They’re all amazing, and you can pass them on to your grandchildren’s grandchildren if you take care of them. But Chicago Cutlery is the absolute best for the price point, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they could be passed down with the proper care and feeding, as well. The handle is just so comfortable, and truth be told, seems to need less babying to achieve awesome. All our lettuce for burgers has to be shaved so thinly you can read a newspaper through it, and for Rachel, it was the easiest task ever. Before I had her, I was using a dull knife that just couldn’t achieve perfection. She also took down some spring onions like they were butter.

Also, a true achievement for me, I did not cut or burn myself during the entire evening, even though I was working with very, very hot oil. I just tried to work as clean as I could, as fast as I could, and it worked. I tried not to leave a mess by cleaning as I went so that the end of the night was easier to shut down…. although there were times when it just wasn’t possible due to the speed with which everything had to be done. With that amount of people, I would get a little messy, wait for the inevitable break, and do it to it.

It was a godsend to have three people in the kitchen, because there are two complete sets of fryers and ranges. That way, I could keep fries going at an alarming rate, the color and crispiness perfect.stainless-steel-bain-marie-pot-42-litre Towards the end of the night, the ticket machine became calm enough that two people could handle it, so I got out a medium-sized bain marie (the bottom pan for a double boiler), and filled it with a few drops of dish soap and lots of water, just like Kinkaid taught me, and went after every surface that still had oil on it. The dish soap wasn’t Dawn brand, but it was serviceable. While every blue dish soap contains a degreaser, there really isn’t a substitute for the real thing. You just need it in proportions that won’t leave bubbles on whatever you’re wiping down so that you don’t have to go over it again with more water.

Because I was cut before the heavy cleaning began (disappointed, truly), I didn’t get to clean the griddle. It’s my favorite chore, because few people can do it better. If you’re not in the know, you need to pour a little lemon juice or white vinegar and club soda on it while the griddle is very, very hot to basically deglaze before you start scraping and scrubbing. You don’t need much- otherwise all the liquid will fill up the grease traps and possibly overflow them so that everything runs onto the floor…. always a good day, and I’ve done it many times (dumbass attack). But the basic point is that you should let the heat do most of the work. By the time I’m done, it will look brand new. It was John Fot who taught me the soda water trick- the carbonation is invaluable, as is the acid. If the pub ever starts a brunch program, it is an even better method, because bacon and beef grease stuck on is les worst.

We do our burgers on an open flame, but when I’m making my own, I prefer a griddle to let the meat confit (cook in its own fat). An open flame makes all the fat drip off- probably healthier, but to my palate, doesn’t taste quite as good. However, it is a matter of personal taste. Some like grilled better, some don’t. With both methods, you have to respect first contact. If you put something on a grill or griddle, leave it alone. Keeping the meat flipping will rip it to shreds, because you are essentially removing the meat’s ability to sear on the outside so that it will lift on its own, also taking off the outside layer of crispy goodness. a63bc3e1-52f9-46e1-9451-d4e6e8c4091e_1.82a983e49d612bf851d8e35c2a88d911In a kitchen, you just don’t have time to do this, but the best way to cook any meat is low and slow. My favorite is  turkey Spam (bet you’re singing the Monty Python song right now), sliced thinly so that it’s brown and crispy like thick-cut bacon, with a tiny, tiny bit of mealiness in the middle. It takes 15-20 minutes to achieve that kind of perfection, but it’s worth it. For those who say, Spam…. ew…. you’ve never tried it the way I make it, so get the fuck out of here with your judgment. There’s a reason it’s insanely popular in Hawai’i. Just trust me on this one. If you hate the taste of Spam, it’s probably because you’ve just warmed it up, perhaps in the microwave, or taken it out of the pan before it’s honestly and truly finished. Again, respect first contact. Low and slow, completely browned on the outside, strips thin enough that you won’t even recognize it as Spam in the first place. If you really want to fool someone, cut off the rounded edges and feed them to the dog….. 😛

Now I’m getting hungry. I think it’s time for breakfast. I go back to the pub at 5:00, so I need some sustenance and a nap to restore at least a bit of lactic acid in my muscles and myelin on my nerves. I need it, because I am again, walking into a hurricane.

With Rachel.

Donate! Donate!

Thanks to all you wonderful people, Stories is allowed to continue for another year without annoying ads. You can keep reading me at work, in those moments when there’s nothing but cleaning products in the bathroom. I paid the fee up front, and have now been reimbursed…. and let me tell you, it saved my ass.

I thought it was a good idea to get my groceries delivered because I don’t have a car. I usually take public transportation to the store, and Uber back so that I at least have access to a trunk. FreshDirect offered me $50 off a purchase of $100 or more. The coupon code did not go through, and I was charged the full amount plus delivery fee. I canceled the order, but there’s still a hold on my funds. They told me it would take 24-48 hours for the hold to be released, and if that doesn’t work, I need an extensive set of documents… and, of course, the vendor says it’s the bank’s fault and the bank says it’s the vendor’s fault. I have been around and around with them on the phone. PayPal was able to transfer funds within two minutes.

I am so glad I have a bit of breathing room, because I went into full-on panic mode. I can’t say I won’t use FreshDirect again, but I can say that we are not off to a good start. This is because they’re the only ones that deliver in my area. It’s probably for the best. I’m not sure I have enough room to store $100 worth of groceries, anyway, but the smallest amount they’ll deliver is $30, and only $7.00 delivery fee…. Less than an Uber, for sure. Perfect when I am out of coffee and creamer…. maybe a box of cereal.

It seems to be feast or famine around here. I got a call back on a position at University of Maryland, and a full-time cook’s job at Denizen’s Brewing Company. They have a brewpub, and they asked whether I’d prefer front of house or back of house. I told them to put me where they needed me. Servers make more money, but cooks don’t have to deal with the public. Pluses in all directions. Besides, my cost of living here is so incredibly low that I don’t need a fancy pants job. You’d think that DC would be so much more expensive, but the room I rent is all bills paid and I don’t have monthly bills like car payments and insurance. It’s just too much when you add in maintenance and parking fees. Plus, one of the reasons I wanted to move to DC so badly is that I have monocular vision, which means that driving is harder for me than most people. With the exception of running into a guardrail because a 25 mph curve was not marked, I haven’t had an accident in years… mostly due to my complete dependence on Waze… although that has bitten me in the ass, as well, because I was lost and trying to find where I was going and got caught on a red light camera while looking at my phone- in the middle of my windshield so I couldn’t exactly see the light. For the most part, as long as I drive slowly, I’m fine. For this very reason, I am in love with cruise control. I try as hard as I can not to be a stereotypical woman driver. Now, I’m pretty good at it. When I was younger, not so much.

I prefer to drive SUVs because I sit a little higher and have more visibility, but unless I was able to afford a hybrid, that’s just not happening. And, of course, as a Texan I love pickup trucks as well. Same idea with the sitting a little higher, much better on gas mileage…. and I hear that the price of gas is going up. The plus is also not having a back seat (people in groups are a “no thanks”). It’s nice to have someone in the passenger seat with stereo vision. Four or five people are just too much of a distraction…. plus, they don’t tend to like how slow I drive, a #biteme situation. Plus, it’s DC. During the day, the traffic is awful. During the night, construction blocks everything. I’ve been caught in traffic jams at both 1100 AND 2300. You just can’t win. Plus, in most areas of Washington proper, the speed limit is only 25mph to begin with. It helps because it keeps you from hitting tourists too hard with your car, as much as you might want to. Did I say that out loud?

I am also dedicated to not talking on the phone in the car on most days, because even with Bluetooth, it’s just distracting enough. Podcasts are my favorite, because music doesn’t keep my brain as engaged. Here’s my list:

  • ID10T (formerly The Nerdist)
  • WTF with Marc Maron
  • Risk!
  • Two Dope Queens
  • Fresh Air
  • On Being, with Krista Tippett
  • You Made it Weird with Pete Holmes
  • House for All Sinners and Saints
  • Radiolab
  • This American Life
  • Reveal
  • Criminal
  • Invisibilia
  • Wait, Wait…. Don’t Tell Me
  • Car Talk
  • The Robcast
  • Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard
  • Hidden Brain
  • The TED Radio Hour
  • The Moth
  • Casefile True Crime
  • Reply All
  • Ask Me Another
  • Snap Judgment
  • Pop Culture Happy Hour
  • Modern Love
  • Meet the Press
  • The Tim Ferris Show

There’s no way that I can listen to them all every week, so I generally download a few at a time over wi-fi so that a) I’m not using my data plan and 2) most of the Metro is underground and the sound doesn’t cut out when I’m in a no service zone. If I had to pick a true favorite, it’s a toss-up between The Moth and Modern Love. I will download those the moment they come out. Third is probably The Robcast, because Rob Bell always has incredible discussions on progressive Christian theology. The four part series with Pete Rollins absolutely blew my mind. One of the most interesting things he said was that theism and atheism are one of life’s great love stories, because in theism/atheism, the truth lives somewhere in the slash. I think I’ve listened to that series four times now. I should edit it so that all four parts are one file.

And now, a finely crafted theological joke, which means I didn’t write it. Attribution is unknown:

Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, Reinhold Niebuhr, and James Cone find themselves all at the same time at Caesarea Philippi. Who should come along but Jesus, and he asks the four famous theologians the same Christological question, “Who do you say that I am?”

Karl Barth stands up and says: “You are the totaliter aliter, the vestigious trinitatum who speaks to us in the modality of Christo-monism.”

Not prepared for Barth’s brevity, Paul Tillich stumbles out: “You are he who heals our ambiguities and overcomes the split of angst and existential estrangement; you are he who speaks of the theonomous viewpoint of the analogia entis, the analogy of our being and the ground of all possibilities.”

Reinhold Niebuhr gives a cough for effect and says, in one breath: “You are the impossible possibility who brings to us, your children of light and children of darkness, the overwhelming oughtness in the midst of our fraught condition of estrangement and brokenness in the contiguity and existential anxieties of our ontological relationships.”

Finally James Cone gets up, and raises his voice: “You are my Oppressed One, my soul’s shalom, the One who was, who is, and who shall be, who has never left us alone in the struggle, the event of liberation in the lives of the oppressed struggling for freedom, and whose blackness is both literal and symbolic.”

And Jesus turns around and says, “What?”

There is nothing greater than studying theology and being able to laugh at yourself. In my own life, I rely on both Henri Nouwen and Paul Tillich. The Wounded Healer and Dynamics of Faith are my go-to in pretty much any situation. Although I will never forget hearing Marcus Borg preach at Trinity Cathedral in Portland, Oregon. Before he got up to speak, Bill Lupfer, the dean, said that any time you had a theological question, you should go and drink beer with a Lutheran. This is especially funny because the first time I ever met Dean Lupfer, we were in a pub.

Speaking of which, if I decide to start cooking again, it’s time to buy a set of bandanas. I am sure Amazon will deliver without incident.

The Snowman Cometh (with Apologies to Eugene O’Neill)

I know it’s hard to tell with a still picture, but it’s really coming down out there… and forecasted to continue. We may actually get some accumulation. I am excited about this, because there is nothing I love more than newfallen snow (when I’m dressed for it). Walking around in the pristine white brings me so much joy. I only hate snow after it’s been on the ground for a few days and ranges from grey to black with tire tracks and dripping oil. Although, if I had to choose, I believe the dogs love it more than me… which reminds me of an old Sam story………….20171209_110711

My roommate, Samantha, has parents where one is Methodist and one is Druze, but does not claim any religion for herself. So, a couple of years ago when the snow was very deep, Sam shouted at her dog, “come on, Daisy. Time to part it like Jesus.” I started laughing so hard that tears came to my eyes and said, “ummm, that was Moses.” She just laughed and said, “whatever.” Of course, this is the same person that when, years ago, I got a “Share a Coke with Mark” bottle and joked that all I needed now were Matthew, Luke, and John, has been calling me Mark ever since. In fact, I think that since then she’s forgotten my actual name. I dig it. Fits in with the theme….. Auna calls me “Hipster Jesus.” Being nicknamed after a Gospel writer doesn’t seem like much of a demotion. After all, he was a writer. 😛

I am caught between two ideas right now. One is that I am still in my jammies- cute ones, so that I at least look marginally dressed- and I have two shows to catch up on. The first is Doc Martin, and the second is The Crown. I was going to start with The Crown, but Doc Martin is just so damn funny, and I could use some funny in my life.

The other idea is that there’s just so much to do and see in the snow, and I have the clothes to be very, very, very warm while I’m out. I could go to downtown Silver Spring and ice skate, or I could go to Zoo Lights, or I could just walk around my neighborhood and see who’s already on the ball with the Christmas decorations. The one drawback to this is that it is actively snowing, and when snow gets on my glasses, I can’t see anything, anyway. You would think that an umbrella would help. Not so much. Snow generally blows sideways. Before I make my decision, I will check and see if Zoo Lights is a recurring thing, or if it is only today. The best time to do all this stuff is after the snow has stopped, there’s a satisfying crunch under your feet, and the weather is cold & clear…. perhaps not clear, because it’s usually overcast even when it’s not snowing, but you get my drift (see what I did there?). I am waiting with baited breath to see what happens this winter, because sometimes we get a few inches a couple of times, and sometimes the heavens open up and dump everything they’ve got. Winter before last, it was over a foot and a half deep. Everyone had a different name for it:

  • Snowpocalypse Now
  • Snowtorious B.I.G.
  • Thanks, Snowbama
  • Enforced Captivity
  • Working Without Pants -or- Working Under the Covers (IT doesn’t DO snow days.)

If we do get The Big One,™ I will work out more than I have all year, because it’s more strenuous to lift your knees that high while walking…. because you can either walk on the unplowed sidewalks, or take your chances on the street. I choose knee/ass deep snow rather than getting hit by a driver who thinks they have this snow driving thing down (they don’t). Everyone thinks they’re a friggin’ expert until they spin out, because thinking you’re an expert generally leads to driving way too fast for the condition at hand…. and I have yet to see anyone chain up on a back road. My general rule is “go around me, moron.” I’ll either see them further down the road fishtailed into a snowdrift or being told by the police that maybe they should control their speed. Of course you can get a speeding ticket while going the speed limit when snow is blowing sideways…. or worse, the snow has melted and it’s still cold AF, so there’s black ice everywhere.

The safest way to get around in all this mess is public transportation, because generally, if you’re going to be in an accident, the city bus is going to “win….” and a good bit of the Metro is inside, which is even safer. Plus, with everyone wanting to run their own heaters in their own cars on their way at every possible opportunity, parking is even harder than normal.

Speaking of driving, though, I had a funny Uber moment yesterday. The Uber driver always checks to make sure he/she has the right destination, and I told him I was going to the mall. He said, “in DC? With all the monuments?” I laughed and said, “no… I’m not going to The Mall, I’m going to a mall.” I was in an Uber pool, and the teens in the back laughed and said, “No! In Silver Spring!” I bought all my clothes, got my bag of coffee (finally) and managed to get out of Whole Foods for less than $50. Beat that with a stick.

I even remembered to get more eggnog….. because I’m in my jammies.

Cute ones.

Free Beer!

Really?

No, not really. But I got you to click on the link, amiright?

In reality, today is just another day in the life of a writer. The sky is grey, the light is fading, and I need to go to the pharmacy and I just can’t bring myself to leave the house. Two reasons- the first is that everything takes longer when you’re sad. You move under the weight of the world. The second is that the weather does not lend itself to wanting to go anywhere.

I have an appointment for platelet donation tomorrow, so I figure I’ll just get to the Metro station early and walk across to the pharmacy and, of course, Starbucks. I took a Tylenol PM™ last night, which is code for “I slept longer than I wanted to today.” Therefore, I don’t actually need another Lexapro until about noon. I will arrive at the pharmacy no later than 9:30, because if I don’t take it before it’s due, bad things will happen.

It is a common experience with this medication that I watch for meticulously. Withdrawal makes my entire brain vibrate to a minor second, kind of like a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. I also get chills & shake uncontrollably while sweating and crying. It is very attractive. I can fight it off with Klonopin, ibuprofen, and an amazing amount of coffee… but it is a stopgap measure and only helps so much. The bitch of it is that withdrawal is almost instantaneous. The clock starts ticking with every minute I don’t take it as soon as I need it.

The last time this happened, I was at work and had to fight through it until lunch, because thankfully, there was a CVS within two minutes of my office and I got my prescription transferred. I can honestly say that those four hours were among the worst of my life, because I had important projects in the air and all I wanted to do was crawl under my desk into the fetal position. I started carrying an entire day’s worth of medication on my key chain after that, but #dumbassattack, I left my keys in my car and they are lost to history. I should have bought a new pill carrier by now, but if you know me at all, I can procrastinate on just about anything if no one else is expecting it to be on deadline.

Additionally, you cannot take any NSAIDS (aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen sodium…. Non-steroidal anti-inflammation drugs) for two to three days depending on state law before you go for apheresis. [Editor’s Note: I prefer ibuprofen to naproxen sodium because you can take a fresh dose more often.] I also can’t drink too much coffee, either, because I don’t want to be dehydrated. It makes the process much slower.

So, basically, if I don’t get to the pharmacy tomorrow morning, I will be up shit creek without a paddle. #motivation

The crying comes because I’m in pain, and because withdrawal makes me incredibly weepy. Most of the time, if I can’t remember whether I’ve taken my psych meds that day, I’ll watch a sad/touching commercial and if I cannot hold it together, there’s my answer. For instance, the commercial in the link is basically everything I didn’t tell my mom enough.

Jesus’ message of walking in the light while you have it destroys me now. He’s basically telling the Disciples that they’re going to be on their own very soon, and they need to listen closely to his teachings because he’s not always going to be around to answer questions.

And, just like me, the Disciples took that message for granted and basically the Book of Acts is that end of the rope and it’s fraying and we’re barely holding it together prayer…. shit, God. They’re grieving and trying to remember every conversation, every parable, every direction.

They muddle through, walking with the weight of the world, for they were not the smartest guys in the room…. just the most dedicated.

I could say the same. Most days, my life is just one White Stripes’ song on repeat…. I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself. I didn’t walk with the light while I had it, and I greatly underestimated/took for granted the messages that were being imparted. Now I am just fumbling in the dark, big dreams- so big I can live in them, with no concrete staircase upward. I have always been a big picture person, able to synthesize ideas quickly and summarize. I am not so good in the weeds…. I have no idea how to get there from here, and the thought is overwhelming to an enormous degree. Other people have gone to college and grad school. It can’t be that hard. I mean, it is. I just mean the steps to get in before any course work has started.

I have run around in circles for almost 20 years. It started with promising my then-partner that I’d get her through her senior year of college, if, when we moved, she’d get me through mine. Two things happened after that. The first is that we could not afford to live on one income while I was a student. DC was just out of our price range for that. The second is that within a year and change of the move, she left me, and took her part of the bargain with her.

My parents paid for some of school, but once I was on my own, I was on my own. Therefore, it’s been a neverending tail-chase as I get a job to get money to pay for school and then either can’t save up enough to quit or can’t manage a full-time job and school. It seems lame to say that out loud, because people do it all the time. Being single, it might be more achievable because I have no family commitments and few social engagements/distractions. Being there for everyone else has cost me taking care of myself. But the last time I was in school and working, I was living in southwest Houston, working in Sugar Land, and going to school at the main campus at UH. School at UH only lasts until 9:00. There were two class times that “fit my schedule-” 5:30 to 7:00 and 7:30-9:00. My job ended at 5:00. With the commute, I rarely, if ever, made it to my 5:30 class- and not for lack of trying. I passed by the skin of my teeth by watching all the lectures online, but since I got a D, I don’t think those hours will transfer to another school. I could stay at UH via distance education, but there’s something about showing up to class. It may be a better option to stay at UH, anyway, because I might have to add extra classes to get the hours needed in residence to graduate. But all these thoughts are for naught right now, because I need a way to pay for tuition, first.

I really thought that my mother would leave Lindsay and me some money in her will, but she didn’t. This is not a slam against her in any way, because that’s how wills are  normally done- everything goes to the spouse. I thought the one good thing  that might come out of my mother dying was allowing myself to finish my education, but that is not to be. So it’s back to the drawing board, easy because I never counted on that money in the first place, because I never expected my mother to die so young. In short, I’ve got what I’ve always had- a conundrum.

The thing that’s different this time around is that I am a fiend about saving money. Even when I make a lot, I live on nothing. I saved up $4,000 in less than a year during 2016. I’ll do it again, so that worry is taken off my shoulders. It would be damned convenient to still have that money, but I was so destroyed by my mother’s death that I couldn’t think about going to work right away. My mind was never in the present, lost in the past. I would spend entire days doing tasks, seeing them done and having no memory of how they got that way.

My biggest mistake was underestimating how long it would take me to find a new job, because it takes longer to find those companies that will take 20 years of work experience over a newly minted degree. Plus, with no work experience and just a degree, employees are cheaper, and labor dollars matter.

I am also starting to believe that because my resume is full, employers have some idea of how old I am, and that isn’t attractive to them, either. I could be totally wrong about this, but 40 is just the age where not being 25 matters. What doesn’t is that I take care of myself, and in terms of energy, I still feel 25. When I dye my hair, I barely pass for 18/21, because I get carded ALL THE TIME, even when buying cigarettes. I don’t smoke, but my roommates used to, and when I was the one that would run into the convenience store to buy everything for everyone, I’d get so flattered. One clerk thought I had a fake ID. What doesn’t feel young about me are cultural references and my sometimes internal monologue of “they’re so young I’m not even sure how they manage to tie their shoes in the morning.” I also don’t want to do anything fun with young people after work, or at least, not often, because I can’t party like that anymore. Right now my average is two alcoholic drinks a month, which means my tolerance is through the floor. I can’t “hang” and make it to work in the morning.

It’s nice to have the built-in excuse of, “I’m sorry, I have to get to class,” or “I’m sorry, I have to go and write.” It seems that going for a run is also an acceptable excuse, but you wouldn’t catch me running unless there’s an ice cream truck involved…….

or free beer.