I was a restaurant manager years ago …

[first published 08-23-11 and stirred to the surface by the Facebook memory churn…]

After college (UVa), I lived and worked in Germany for about 9 months (in einer Zimmerei in der naehe von Hamburg). When I returned, I decided I wanted to be a professional host, like the wonderful woman who ran Café Bretzl in Wein. Sigh. I had enjoyed many taverns and restaurants in my travels. It seemed like a potential career. (German Major lacked potential, though I didn’t care at the time. My brief epiphany that I should study semiotics passed quickly, as with linguistics – I lack the discipline for post-graduate work. As for being a poet, another option, that’s still my avocation.)

watch books from Dudley P's and the Japanese Steak HouseWhat I didn’t know at the time was that nobody really makes enough money in the restaurant business, except the owner, and not always the owner. The money seems good, but at every level, people in the restaurant business work very hard for ungrateful customers and indifferent management. You are an easily replaced cog in any restaurant.

Unaware of that, I applied for a job as an assistant manger at Dudley P’s Pizzeria & Pub on M Street, not far from NPR (at the time). The job of the assistant manager is to let the manager escape the restaurant at the worst hours, especially closing, opening – usually hours apart – and weekends. Moreover, an assistant manager must be able to do any job in the establishment at a moment’s notice, a fact that actually suited me. At times, I cooked, I tended bar, I washed dishes, and, most importantly, I waited tables. Everyone should wait on tables (and buss them) for the experience. We would all have much more respect for and kindness toward those who are good at it – you cannot imagine the challenges.

It wasn’t all bad. I liked working at night. I could eat pizza any time I wanted. I got to select the tape played over the sound system. I met some nice people, including a mentor named Tony. On the other hand, hanging around people all hours who drink and smoke takes a toll, especially since that’s what restaurant workers do after work. (Smoking in a restaurant was still legal and common.)

Dudley P’s was owned by a guy who also owned a more-successful franchise in Maryland. My theory was Dudley’s was a tax offset. At some point, I became disgusted by the district manager and I wrote a letter full of high-dudgeon, disgust, and forgotten accusations regarding that manager to the owner. Here, I like to mention that I had been fired from my first job over an incendiary letter regarding the incompetence and cruelty of a supervisor *and* I would be fired from a later job for the same reason. I was born to be a blogger (which pays no better than poetry, except for a few).

I was not meant, however, to manage people, which is the most lasting thing I learned that year. I expect everyone around me to do their jobs well on their own motivation. I’m neither inspiring nor threatening enough to lead.

Despite all this, I went on to be an assistant manger for the Japanese Steak House at two locations. This was a better fit for me if only for the large number of Asians employed, specifically Japanese, Thai, and Chinese. I like diversity, but I was born and formed in Hawai’i and I was drawn to the people I worked with like family (my family chuckles at this, but “like family” makes my feeling accessible to others). Talk about self-motivated hard-working people barely in need of managing. Yeah, I’m stereotyping, but this was my observation. No question, my co-workers were also gentle and kind to me. When I finally burned out on the hours and the commute, I quit before I could write a letter to my sometimes irksome boss. As a farewell, my colleagues took me out to dinner at a special Chinese restaurant. I was honored.

After a year in the restaurant business, I was ready to get back to working at nothing all day. Lucky for me, I found the first grocery in town that took credit cards (this was that long ago). It was a great summer.


[first posted Tue 08/18/09; resurrected six years later]

LuckyDog died a week ago today. Soon, it will have been a month ago, then a year [,then six]. One day, he will have been dead longer than he lived. So it is for each of us.

I’ve categorized Lucky’s blog entries under “The Atheist’s Pulpit.” I created that category years ago to collect entries pertaining to my thoughts about life and death and what, for other people, are religious experiences.

I do not believe there is or ever was a god. I know, you got that from “atheist,” but I say it more emphatically because I never hear anyone else say it so baldly. I used to call myself an agnostic and, then, an antagnostic (one who is irritated by the belief in god). However, the absurd overconfidence of people who believe in a micromanaging patriarch compels me to speak for myself.

More relevant to my thoughts over the past week: I believe death ends individuality. I don’t really care about the particulars of what happens to a once-living being’s molecules or the energy that animates it. What we call personality, identity, self, or soul, ends at death. Memories and photos aren’t the same.

Even people who reject the notion of a cartoonish heaven where everyone is miraculously reunited with everyone else usually take comfort in something beyond death. My mother expected to reappear as a cardinal or a butterfly, although she spoke sometimes of radiating out into space, like an old TV show. Most of my godless friends fill the void with Life or the Universe itself, which I find tempting, but one might as well worship the sun at that point. (I would be in the minority, worshipping the moon.)

So, I don’t believe in god(s), I don’t believe in heaven or hell (but I know where I’m going if I’m wrong), I don’t believe in reincarnation, an afterlife, or an immortal soul. Feel free to feel superior or scandalized, or to pray for me. By all means, rib me gently should we meet on the other side of Death. I’ll owe everyone a Coke. peace, mjh

PS: If I were going to believe in gods, I’d be a polytheist. It is easy to imagine countless petty, incompetent, jealous, and quarrelsome gawds looking for ways to trip us up.

PPS: I do appreciate a beautiful Buddhist image of the river of life cascading over a falls. A droplet of water appears for an instant – that is your life. In no time, that individual droplet returns to the All. Beautiful, but no comfort, if you like being yourself or want to see your dog again, someday.

We remember the Holocaust without waving Nazi flags

The society that culminated in the Confederate States of Amerika was founded on white people enslaving black people. Over hundreds of years a system grew entrenched around the fundamental right of one person to own another, lesser person. When the rest of the nation could no longer tolerate the intolerable, the CSA waged war in order to preserve the system that enslaved human beings. It comes as no surprise that a society that has murdered and cruelly tortured fellow humans for centuries would be willing to wage war.

Slave owners deserve no memorials. People whose livelihood and comforts were provided for by slaves deserve no celebration. Yes, we should remember the Old South, but as a terrible deviation from human decency.

People who defend the symbols of the CSA as history are at best misguided. The Civil War was not about states’ rights, other than the right to enslave, torture, rape, and murder an entire group of human beings.

We do not need to forget the Civil War. We do not need to blame the descendants of that monstrous society for the unforgiveable sins of their fathers. However, raising the confederate battle flag is the equivalent of tattooing Heil Hitler on your forehead. It marks you as an anti-social idiot, a right you still have.

Run, Bernie, Run!

Sanders appeals to me quite a bit. I think Clinton has a better chance of winning nationally, but I’m glad Bernie is raising hell. peace, mjh

The non-Clinton alternative for Democrats by Eugene Robinson

I’m not of the school that believes competition for competition’s sake is always a good thing. But Sanders has an appeal for younger, more liberal, more idealistic Democrats that Clinton presently lacks. If she competes for these voters — and learns to connect with them — she will have a much better chance of winning the White House. …

One thing Sanders has going for himself is palpable authenticity. He is the antithesis of slick. To say there’s nothing focus-grouped about the man is to understate; one doubts he knows what a focus group is. “Rumpled” is the word most often used to describe him, but that’s not quite right; it’s not as if his suits are unpressed or his shirttails untucked. He’s just all substance and no style — which, to say the least, makes him stand out among politicians….

Sanders’s main appeal, however, is that he speaks unabashedly for the party’s activist left. He is witheringly critical of Wall Street, wants to break up the big banks, proposes single-payer health care and promises to raise taxes. He voted against the 2003 invasion of Iraq; Clinton, then a senator, voted for it but now says that she made a mistake.

Oklahoma Supreme Court orders removal of Ten Commandments monument

As an atheist, I’m heartened by this ruling, though I know the zealots will be enraged.

Oklahoma Supreme Court orders removal of Ten Commandments monument

The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that a Ten Commandments monument placed on State Capitol grounds must be removed because the Oklahoma Constitution bans the use of state property for the benefit of a religion.

The 6-foot-tall (1.8-meter) stone monument, paid for with private money and supported by lawmakers in the socially conservative state, was installed in 2012, prompting complaints that it violated the U.S. Constitution’s provisions against government establishment of religion, as well as local laws.

In a 7-2 decision, the court said the placement of the monument violated a section in the state’s constitution, which says no public money or property can be used either directly or indirectly for the “benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion.”

Forget god

God doesn’t exist — he never did. We created all the gods in our image to embody the ideals we aspire to and the unfathomable misdeeds of which we’re capable. God is a fable, at times a cruel hoax, a story we all need to outgrow, just like Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, the demigods of childhood.

But god is good, you say. No, you may be good. Your family, neighbors, friends are good — without god. But religion does good, you say. No doubt, but religion, like every human institution, does both good and bad — it’s our nature and the nature of all our creations and tools. Some of the bad we do in the name of god is genuinely horrible beyond the pale. We need to get beyond religion by forgetting god.

The most devout believers I know are Jewish. They have a code of behavior thousands of years old and they have discussed, debated, argued every word of it freely. What has it gotten them? The Dark Ages. The Holocaust. Palestine. Odds are some of their smiling neighbors whisper, “They’re Jews.” Praise the lord.

Few Christians are more full of love than African-Americans. Talk about the Stockholm Syndrome and mirroring the behavior of your abuser. Some American blacks take great comfort from god and faith. When did he start comforting them? Before their own holocaust, their ancestors had gods. You may shrug those off as heathenism — it’s all the same to me. Their religious neighbors sold them into slavery, before being enslaved themselves. Slaves endured centuries of unspeakable cruelty at the hands of good Christians. Deny the “good,” if you will. When did god stop listening to the prayers of the enslaver and start listening to the prayers of the enslaved? (Ask the Jews. They must have a day for that.)

What about Islam? Leave aside the tiny number who would kill me for blasphemy. (Whereas, the Jews will crack a joke about me, while the Christians say they’re praying for me.) Muslims also have strict codes selectively applied. What has Allah done for them? Made a few nauseatingly rich, so rich their table scraps comfort thousands of others, but not so rich that they choose to deal with the poverty and ignorance of the radicals. (Note how poverty and ignorance always go hand-in-hand with every religion. There will always be poor.)

But the Buddhists! They’re cool, right? Sure, they have lots of rules and demigods, plus all the pomp and circumstance of every religion. (Gotta give the folks a show as a key part of the sleight-of-hand.) Following Buddha may have helped them wait-out communism. That’s something.

And the new kids on the block? The Mormons? They carry on while the non-believers laugh and shake their heads. Where was their god when non-Mormons slaughtered them and drove them into the desert? No, the Scientologist, the most blatantly unapologetic con game. The latest hoax is the most obvious because it’s new. Given time, any nonsense finds followers. All believers are faithful to their own fantasy.

Just as we must recognize god as fiction — metaphor, at best — so we must stop chasing the delusion of heaven, the carrot in the deadfall. You have one life. It will end. NOTHING of your consciousness will live on. You may have kids who look, sound, and act like you. You may create art or devastation people talk about for generations. That’s not YOU. YOU will die. Childish stories will not change that. Believing, hoping, praying something better is coming will not change your fate or mine. Your hope is exploited by the charlatans and propheteers (sic). Grow up, be good, get on with life, be kind, take care of yourself and others. Accept the bad you can’t change and take responsibility for the bad you can change. You don’t need a god or heaven or soul for any of those good things — they are in our nature.

Sun Stand Still

Tick … tock, the pendulum swings so slowly. Lub … dub, another beat of Gaia’s heart.

longest day

From today on, the sun rises a little later each morning. Paradoxically, the sun sets a little later each night for the next week before it begins to set earlier.