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.

Weaponizing Ebola

It doesn’t take any imagination or pessimism to see the inevitable. An imam will get Ebola and his followers will kiss him and his infected clothing, then get on airplanes to the US and Europe. Surely people willing to die with a bomb attached to their bodies won’t hesitate to doom themselves this way.

Even more likely are infected Hajis on their way to Mecca. The Saudis are blocking people from 3 African nations, but they can’t keep ebola out.

We can’t (won’t, shouldn’t) reject all Muslim visitors nor quarantine them all for 20 days.

Gaia may have finally concocted the right antibody.

My Generation

[I stumbled across this from 3/25/07. It’s still germane.]

You can tell it is fundraising time on PBS, if for no other reason than all the concert shows. These concerts frequently feature rockstars of the 50’s and 60’s. It is so depressing to me to see these old stars singing their old hits. More so, seeing the gray audience singing and swaying along. Yes, I’m every bit as gray and, no, I don’t expect this generation or our idols to go gently into that good night. By all means, fellow Boomers, let’s shake the world at least one last time before we go. Let’s make the 10’s as memorable as the 60’s (unlike the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s).

But my fellow silverbacks and graybeards aren’t rocking the world on these shows. They’re sitting in plush seats in concert halls that don’t look anything like a rock venue. If there is tie-dye in the crowd, it must be on their Depends, cuz these folks could be at the opera, but for the singing along. A Frisbee or a joint would draw such a frowning.

I understand, we’ve arrived and we’ve got the money to do what we want (except stay young forever). I also get the message from PBS that they want us to be comfortable and happy, to be at home at PBS, and to cough up for our front-row seats.

Still, I don’t understand the fundraising strategy of screwing up the expected programing to show nothing but music. Is the message: “here’s a treat for you because you won’t pay for our regular stuff?” If I won’t pay for Jim Lehrer, I surely won’t pay for the reunited surviving members of the Shondells. (Appearing next week at some Indian casino.)

Oh, but Jim Lehrer is secure and onscreen. Ironically, I can’t tell you which evening shows are replaced by these nostalgic moneymakers, now that they’ve stopped preempting the news shows on Friday nights. I can tell you that on Saturday, my favorite cooking shows get bumped (ah, finally, he gets to the point). Now, I appreciate that Julia Child is the godmother of all cooking (though I watched Graham What’s-his-name, the Galloping Gourmet, in my preteens). There is some brief delight in seeing the old black and white footage of Julia cracking wise while cracking two eggs at once (“don’t worry, any bits of shell will sink to the bottom”), cooking 10 second omelets on an electric stovetop (can you believe that!), her scarf hiding her Adam’s apple. But how many hours of that can one take? Moreover, how can anyone take more than a few minutes of “one skillet recipes” with that man and woman I can’t stand (“You’re so smart, it never occurred to me to add fresh garlic instead of garlic salt.”). Puhleese. How are those two moneymakers? Why do they replace America’s Test Kitchen or Everyday Foods?

While I’m on a rant ‘n’ roll, let me add my objection to all the commercials on non-commercial television. The previously understated corporate sponsorship is on it’s way to being an infomercial. Is that really what we want from public television?

I’d pay to have 28 minutes of my favorite shows instead of 24. I’d pay to see my shows when I expect them. I’d even pay to see a concert filmed in the late 60’s without comments. I’d pay to see The Great American Dream Machine again — that was Public Television.

Cue the MP3 of The Who’s “My Generation.” “I hope I die before I get old (talkin’ ’bout my generation).” mjh

PS- Some think there won’t be a PBS in another 40 years (or TV, we might hope), but it may hang on with inheritance from lonely Boomers. Imagine the fundraisers in 2050, the oldsters with their rorschach tattoos and horribly stretched piercings nodding to the venerable Eminem and SnoopDogg, Jr. “Next up, the surviving members of Gorrilaz and NiN sing a tribute to the late, great Beyoncé, ‘Dat Old Bitch Da Bomb!’ . That’s tonight’s bonus download with a donation of 500 Reagans. Peace out, Dawg!”

Grief and puppy love

We had to return Autumn to her foster-mom today. I can hardly finish that sentence without tears. She’s a sweet, adorable puppy who made herself the center of our household in no time.

Unfortunately, I had several allergic reactions to Autumn. Sometimes my hands simply burned and itched. Other times, I had hives. I started taking Benadryl regularly, but I don’t want to do that forever.

Perhaps, all puppies are adorable and smart. It was interesting to watch Autumn at play and to watch her face. She makes great eye contact. She adored Luke, followed him, and emulated him.

Everyone knows puppies are work. I keep thinking about my Mom, who made taking care of everything and everyone look effortless and a pleasure. Where does that strength come from? We all rise to certain demanding moments. (Not to make raising a puppy sound heroic.) How many of us keep smiling under the pressure?

It has been a year of grief. First, our weeks in Memphis caring for Merri’s mom who died in July. Then, in August, the death of my old friend, Madeline, virtually my second mom or an aunt. With her dies the last contact with my Mom’s life before me. In this context, the near-destruction of Mer’s car seems a mere inconvenience.

Now, Autumn has come and gone. It breaks my heart to let her go. The one thing that makes that bearable is seeing her joy at returning to her foster-mom and her pack. And I know Lap Dog Rescue will make sure she finds the great home she deserves. I hope she completes a home as Luke has ours.

‘Epic Pale Whale Fail’: Oswalt’s Contribution To ‘Moby Dick’ : NPR–you must hear this

I laughed throughout this hilarious interview, but then, I’ve never read Moby Dick. Fantastic zingers aimed at Americans in general and bloggers, along with the main topic. My highest recommendation.

‘Epic Pale Whale Fail’: Oswalt’s Contribution To ‘Moby Dick’

September 21, 2013 3:00 PM

Listen to the Story

All Things Considered

9 min 50 sec

Actor and comedian Patton Oswalt appeared at three Los Angeles library branches Saturday to read aloud from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and discuss its complexities with audience members. Host Arun Rath talks to Oswalt about his obsession with the white whale.

‘Epic Pale Whale Fail’: Oswalt’s Contribution To ‘Moby Dick’ : NPR

BBC News – German dialect in Texas is one of a kind, and dying out

This is an absolutely fascinating piece from my friend, Walking Raven (in her Cognitive Surplus guise). The video portion is well worth your time. These towns should advertise in Deutschland sofort. Germans love the American Southwest and they would be delighted to visit these towns. Such an influx could reinvigorate the local usage, though that too might mean the end of Texas German. Note in this pidgin the same forces one sees at work in Spanglish. Ausgezeichnet!

BBC News – German dialect in Texas is one of a kind, and dying out

Still the biggest ancestry group in the US, according to Census data, a large majority of German-Americans never learned the language of their ancestors.

Hans Boas, a linguistic and German professor at the University of Texas, has made it his mission to record as many speakers of German in the Lone Star State as he can before the last generation of Texas Germans passes away.

Mr Boas has recorded 800 hours of interviews with over 400 German descendants in Texas and archived them at the Texas German Dialect Project. He says the dialect, created from various regional German origins and a mix of English, is one of a kind.

BBC News – German dialect in Texas is one of a kind, and dying out

Recycling on Earth Day

I’ve been recycling pieces of this Earth Day blog entry for 10 years.

morning evening primrose

“Because of all the places within a year’s ride of here, this is the only place to be.” — World Party

Happy Earth Day, Everyone!

Some say the “Environmental Movement” has itself become a corporation indistinguishable from its foes. Some say that “the people” no longer trust “the movement.” Some even say the movement is irrelevant because everyone is an environmentalist now. Yeah, that last one is especially funny.

Whatever bits of truth float in those views, all of us are coming to realize how fucked up the World has made the Earth. We see the climate change, and the severity of destruction it spawns. We see the diseases that may very well be Earth’s antibodies against humans. We see the end of the Era of Fossil Fuels and the shorter-term sputters of that dying system. We have a good sense of what is wrong, how we play into that, and how we are going to be part of the change. We all *know* that in a single lifetime everything will change dramatically. Our house is on fire. mjh

PS: Wow — I used that analogy 10 months before Al Gore used it. (4/22/06)

mjh’s blog — Hug a Hippie

I nest between a great river and greater mountains beneath a stunning sky. I think Frank Zappa said it best when he said, “It’s fucking great to be alive.” (There goes my parental rating. Sorry, kids.)

It’s not that I’m always high on life. It is obvious that it is far easier — more natural — for humans to destroy than preserve. And the End of Days are going to be hideous and slow. But, optimist that I am, I believe the Earth will rebound and return without out the infection of humankind. (To our successors: Learn from our mistakes, even though we could not.)

Thirty-eight years ago, Earth Day began as an extension of the hippie movement. Yes — thank the hippies! Thank the liberals. Thank Tricky Dick Nixon — whose daughter, Julie Nixon Eisenhower, supports Obama — for bowing to democracy momentarily to support the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts and the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Endangered Species Act. Every one of those things *infuriates* the Radically Wrong, who would condemn Nixon for his liberalism. (Such insanity may be a consequence of environmental degradation, ironically.)

Peace, love and happiness,


mjh’s blog — Hug a Hippie

mjh’s blog — How Some People Celebrated Earth Day (updated 5/8/07)

As I do every other day, I walked Lucky Dog around the neighborhood park today. Our park has two soccer fields, both of which are in use most Saturdays and, maybe, Sundays. Today, all around the two fields, I picked up small water bottles thoughtlessly tossed on the ground by players or fans (parents). We tell ourselves many lies, one of which is that “sports build character and discipline.” The evidence of that litters fields all over the world. Another lie: “environmental consciousness has become mainstream.” Or any kind of consciousness, for that matter.

To all the coaches, referees and parents: how about a post-game sweep of the field to clean-up? Show some leadership, teach some discipline, encourage some character. To the athletes: it’s up to you to keep your world from becoming a pigsty. mjh

PS: original blog entry 04/23/07; printed in abqjournal.com 5/8/07

mjh’s blog — How Some People Celebrated Earth Day (updated 5/8/07)

mjh’s blog — A Finger in the Eye

Billboards are a finger in the eye. An erect middle finger. A billboard is a selfish and cowardly statement. It says anonymously, “my profit is more important than the environment.” It places personal gain ahead of community values. Every billboard in the world should be pulled down by angry mobs.

Tijeras Arroyo billboard

Isn’t this picture beautiful? Doesn’t it make you proud to live in New Mexico? The mighty Tijeras Arroyo is already doomed by Mesa del Sold. In the meantime, enjoy the view. As you drive this stretch with its dozen billboards, notice most are for Clear Channel, the owners of most billboards. Buy stock and demand they get out of this business.

Farther south, Isleta shows what Indians really think of Mother Earth, with their dozens of billboards north of Los Lunas. No stoic native with a tear in his eyes at the sight of all the garbage — those are dollar signs.

Where’s your shame? mjh

mjh’s blog — A Finger in the Eye

Earth Day 2002

I celebrated Earth Day idling in line at the drive-up window. As I burned my part of the world’s resources, I waited for chemical-laden beef raised on clear-cut forest land, served with genetically modified potatoes grown in the desert, watered by rapidly melting polar icecaps. On the radio, the president called for arctic drilling. On the TV, the vice-president called for nuclear power plants. On my cell phone, I called for replacement batteries for my laptop, my digital camera, my CD player, my pacemaker. On my palm-pilot, I wrote “need to get away.” I used a search engine to look for a campground with hook-ups, preferably near a convenience store. mjh